Lisa Julian was visiting family over spring break when she got a phone call from Manhattan High School principal Michael Dorst.

Dorst asked for Julian’s view on whether teachers at the school were prepared if classes moved online in response to the threat of COVID-19.

“That was the first clue I had we were heading down this path,” Julian said.

Julian, the coordinator of the gifted program at MHS, had piloted the district’s online learning program, CANVAS, a few years earlier while she was teaching sixth grade at Amanda Arnold Elementary School. Since the school buildings closed in March, Julian has helped train other teachers in the district in the software.

“If I can help provide some consistency, that’s what I want to do,” she said.

Julian joined the district in 2010 as a sixth-grade teacher at Amanda Arnold and is in her third year at MHS.

Julian said things changed very quickly during that time in March, with a lot of upheaval for both teachers and students.

“It became this scramble for teachers to figure out how to teach online,” she said.

She said one of her biggest concerns was the social and emotional well-being of her students, especially those for whom school is their safe place.

“That human connection is so valuable, and when we lost it, it left us all a little raw and emotional,” she said.

Life for Julian since then has been a lot of time staring at screens, checking in with her students and leading training sessions for CANVAS, she said. She also has worked on templates for teachers to use for their digital classrooms.

This summer, she’s also helped set up the district’s virtual camps and helped the elementary schools develop their templates and figure out how to make the platform work best for them and their class.

“There’s a lot of anxiety around what will come, and I don’t have the answers, but I know what I can do,” she said. “I can help others be ready.”

Julian said she expects online learning to remain an important this semester as the coronavirus continues to spread, but she’s excited for the day when she can be with her students again.

“I look forward to seeing my kids when it’s safe,” she said.

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