The Slice – Spring/Summer 2020

PiE Newsletter

Practicing What They Teach:

PiE-funded teachers demonstrate resilience, innovation, collaboration, and creativity

With school campuses closed, and students now learning from home, teachers, counselors, and staff for all grade levels and disciplines have taken on the challenge of bringing meaningful learning opportunities into a virtual environment. We bring you a sampling of how PiE-funded staff are doing just that.

Classroom & Educational Aides

PiE Innovation Grant recipient, Special Education and General Education aide at Walter Hays Elementary, Carrie Manley, challenged herself to make lessons that were both meaningful and fun for her students, to keep them engaged with the material presented. See the video to meet Junior Teacher “Bear” from the Word Factory, who guides kindergarten students through the challenges of sounding out new words.

As teachers look more to collaboration, Carrie shared one of her lessons with a kindergarten teacher at El Carmelo.

Image/video courtesy of Carrie Manley

See the video

Ohlone Classroom Aide Stephanie Compton has become a producer of sorts for her classroom’s Zoom meetings, so that the classroom teacher Dave Ketchum can stay focused on content delivery and interacting with students.

When I tell people we’re doing Zoom meetings with 22 5- and 6-year-olds, they invariably say, “How’s THAT going?” It’s actually going surprisingly well! The kids really enjoy seeing each other and we do a lot of sharing about what everyone is doing to keep up their learning, stay healthy, and have fun.

Stephanie Compton, Ohlone Classroom Aide

Junior Museum and Zoo

Image/video courtesy of Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo

The Palo Alto Junior Museum & School is closed to visitors, but online classroom lessons bring science lessons to students at home. Teacher Yazz created hands-on lessons using simple materials that students would be able to find in their homes, like ketchup bottles and different sized bowls.

See the video

Spectra Art

Spectra Art teachers now create remote lessons, replacing materials from well-stocked art rooms and carts with common household items. An early lesson plan had students build a color wheel with whatever they could find at home.

Spectra Art teacher Shiraaz Bhaba created a video lesson on one line art to share with her class. Bhaba notes that while she misses interacting directly with the students, there has been an upside. See the video

Image/Video courtesy of Shiraaz Bhaba

The Spectra team has been doing collaborative group work since the learning environment has changed to virtual. As a group we are possibly even more in sync with our lessons than before. During this phase of collaborative work we are consolidating all our key lessons by grade level, in the areas of Non-Western Art, Color, Drawing Techniques, Texture/Surface and 3-D Lessons.

– Shiraaz Bhaba, Spectra Art Teacher


PiE funds dance and movement for K-3rd grade students. Online dance lessons have proven to be a hit, with more than 1000 views for the first video, featuring a rather large stuffed bear, “Lily.” Days at home with limited play make body movement practices more important than ever.

Photo/Video courtesy of Kim Khole

My hope is that the classes give students a little comfort in these uncertain times. I know that their shining faces are smiling for those few minutes of class.   It is comforting for them to see that life is still going on and that their teachers truly care about them.
– Kim Khole, Dance & Movement Teacher

See the video


JLS teacher Julia Choi was worried about what her students would be able to do from home without tools that were available in the studio at school. But determination set in.

KJLS student Rahil Menon working from home. Courtesy of KJLS

I was able to find new sources that were available for educators and students. I really appreciate how hard these students are working at home with what they have. If I could show you all of their amazing design projects to production work, it simply blows my mind on how creative our students are. I thank them for their patience, love, and care. I feel like teachers might feel like we are always providing something to the students, but we are definitely receiving back from the students, too.
– Julia Choi, JLS Broadcasting teacher

See the broadcast


While nothing replaces the magic of singing while physically in the same space, the Paly choir found that singing together while remaining apart creates beautiful music that they can share on their YouTube channel, now a critical performance platform.

Gunn Virtual College & Career Counseling

Image and video courtesy of Gunn High School Counseling Department

Gunn Counseling has their hands full, tracking down juniors for in-depth discussions about the college application process, and circling back with seniors now making tough decisions in a rapidly changing landscape. “New info gets put out as fast as we can grab it,” notes Linda Kirsch, Guidance Counselor, “I gather as much info as I can on the financial impact this is having on colleges as it will change the college experience.”

Along with one-on-one meetings, Virtual College Workshops, available on Gunn’s website, help juniors with their college search.

See the workshop

A Silver Lining

While teachers and counselors deeply miss seeing students in person, they have also noted some unexpected benefits of educating from home.

The current circumstances necessitate the development of new skills and tools to build a more flexible learning environment for the future. Keeping a growth mindset is not optional. Programs are now building repositories of digital materials and lessons that can continue to be used and expanded over the coming years. Work being done now will provide a lasting benefit.

Teachers see the advent of new collaborative relationships among departments and schools, as they try new methods of content delivery and student engagement. Some note that collaboration efforts that have been discussed for years are now being put into practice.


Interested in learning more about how distance learning is being implemented across Palo Alto schools? Go deeper with the links below:

PAUSD Flexible Learning Chronicles

KJLS – Student Broadcasts from Home

Paly Choir YouTube Channel

PAUSD Middle School Choir Teachers on YouTube (Junior HiFi)

Junior Museum & Zoo YouTube Channel

PiE is proud to support these creative and resourceful teachers and counselors. Thank you to our donors for making it all possible!