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St. Patrick Teacher Awarded for Success with Online Learning

As many made the quick change from in-person classrooms to virtual due to COVID, the way educators connect with their students has transformed. I would like to share an uplifting story about an outstanding teacher from Portland, MI. Jordan Smith was awarded the My Virtual Learning Success Story grant by the National Society of High School (NSHSS). This grant recognizes high school teachers who when presented with a tough situation and through the trials and tribulations of virtual learning, came out successful. Smith was one of five educators who were selected to each be awarded a $500 grant.

For the past decade, Jordan Smith has been the main high school science teacher at St. Patrick Catholic School, where he teaches a wide variety of science disciplines, including physical science, biology, chemistry, and human anatomy. In pursuing his master’s degree, Smith attended Western Governors University, a completely online school that specializes in helping working professionals, like teachers, advance their careers. After graduating in 2019 and a few months into 2020, COVID-19 hit, and Michigan became one of the first hot spots.

Smith says he will always remember the day of March 13, 2020, the day that the State of Michigan closed all schools to help slow the spread of COVID-19, sending everyone home for what we thought would only be a few weeks. At first, his lessons were delivered, recorded, and posted to Google Classroom, while he learned how to make short, engaging video lessons. As it became apparent that COVID-19 would impact the rest of the school year, the Catholic schools in the Diocese of Grand Rapids made the decision to switch to using Canvas for online learning, which is very detailed, so Smith was initially resistant to the change. However, as he started learning more, he began to see the possibilities this held to help make both his job and that of his students easier and more efficient. He actually became the leading proponent and user of Canvas in his building and is now the one that other teachers come to with questions.

Smith found that he could improve his classes by organizing all of his learning materials on Canvas in advance, rather than posting it one day at a time as he did using Google Classroom. Through this, he has noticed a definite improvement in his courses in that students now have more ability to take control and ownership of their own learning. This change also dramatically improved the workflow of grading assignments and keeping students apprised of what is happening in class. Using Canvas tools, Smith was able to successfully balance this tricky teaching assignment. This became invaluable as students and eventually, portions of a class had to quarantine at various times.

To give you some background on the organization that awarded Smith the grant, NSHSS is the premier international honors and scholarship program co-founded by Claes Nobel and James Lewis. It offers a lifetime of benefits, pairing the highest performing students worldwide with high school and college scholarships, events, connections, internships, and career opportunities that begin in high school and carry on through college and careers. For more information, visit

Disclosure: Jordan Smith is a regular contributor for The Portland Beacon.

Courtesy photo.


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