Jill Magnante is the English department chair at Newbury Park High School. (Photo courtesy of Jill Magnante)
Newbury Park High School

Minds Matter: Newbury Park English teacher Jill Magnante makes the best of remote learning

Throughout Newbury Park High School, Jill Magnante is known for her positive and welcoming attitude. She hopes her classroom is a safe haven for students, and that her leadership as the English department chair helps provide an engaging education experience.

Like with most teachers, COVID-19 has completely changed the way that Magnante does her job. As someone who values person-to-person connection, the news that Conejo Valley Unified School District would start the school year completely remote hit her deeply.

“I kind of needed a day, I needed to have a day to have a pity party or be disappointed … you have to be honest with your feelings,” Magnante said.

She explained that remote learning in the fall is different from the spring since she has to deal with a completely new batch of students.

“It’s scary, you know, to think that we’re headed into something that’s so different from what we’ve done,” Magnante said.

Aminah Ghanem, 18, is a recent graduate from NPHS and had Magnante as her senior year English teacher. She believes that Magnante handled the sudden shift to remote learning very well in the spring.

“She understood that everyone’s situation was different, so for some reason if you couldn’t make it or if there were problems that prevented you from going, there were alternate assignments … she never actually put too much stress on you,” Ghanem said. “She really cared about her students’ experience. If there was ever a problem, you could definitely go to her.”

Magnante believes that remote learning demands more work from teachers due to its unfamiliarity. She has put in extensive work throughout the summer in preparation for the fall semester.

“It’s summertime and I have to say I’ve probably spent three days this summer where I just completely checked out from schoolwork … I mean every day, it’s researching, reading, studying,” she said.

Magnante hopes to clear up the misconception that teachers are not putting in effort into making distance learning meaningful.

“There’s a lot of really caring, committed people who are working really hard and losing a lot of sleep over just wanting to do best by our kids,” she said.

Newbury Park High School English teacher Jill Magnante created a virtual classroom for her students on Canvas. (Image courtesy of Jill Magnante)

For Magnante, taking a step back and looking at the positives in her life puts this situation into perspective.

“I have to just stop and ask myself what I can control versus what I can’t control, and then focus on what I can controI,” she said. “I work really, really hard to look for the best in everyone’s intentions and to really respect the difficulties that each person in this puzzle is experiencing.”

As restrictions are gradually lifted, many teachers will still remain apprehensive about returning to the classroom and exposing themselves to dozens of student contacts. However, the last thing that Magnante wants is for students to think that their teachers do not care about their success during this time.

“It’s a really hard time to navigate and so, when they hear that people are frustrated or concerned, I hope they would never interpret that as not being equally concerned about kids,” Magnante said. “Because you guys (students) are pretty darn amazing.”