Monarch Academy teacher Kylie McBride worried about how she would connect with her kindergarteners this year if she couldn’t physically be with them.

But distanced learning has become fun for students, thanks to another teacher’s help more than 2,000 miles away.

Monarch Academy students learn Spanish this year from teachers in Colombia, thanks to the school’s partnership with an Australian company called Meg.

McBride’s students have been learning from Viviana Sanchez, who teaches them from her apartment in Bogota. In their Google Meets classroom last week, the screen full of wiggly kindergarteners learned about the cha-cha-cha dance and how to talk about their favorite cartoon characters in Spanish.

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“It’s great to mix it up and have fresh faces on the screen teaching them,” McBride said.

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Sanchez has been introducing the students to Colombia through its animals. Each week, they learn about a new creature like Amazon pink dolphins, sloths, jaguars and cockatoos. She also tells them about what life is like for her in Bogota and shows the views of the city from her apartment.

“The kids are always curious about new people,” McBride said. “I think it makes the material real to them, that she’s actually from Colombia, having a person to learn from who actually speaks Spanish.”

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Sanchez is used to teaching from her apartment, but the coronavirus pandemic has also presented her with a learning curve.

Normally, she would be the only one at home and be projected to students in their classrooms. But now that everyone is at home during the pandemic, she said it’s been a bit harder to adjust.

Getting kindergarteners like her class last week to focus can seem a bit like herding cats as students fight with their siblings, play with their pets and walk away from the computer. But Sanchez and McBride are up for the challenge.

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“We need to adapt,” Sanchez said. “It’s very interesting to see how this is new for them. They’re not only learning Spanish but about this new way of learning.”

McBride said she’s impressed with how much her students have learned and retained and how patient Sanchez has been with them.

“You can tell that she brings a lot of energy, and she pays attention to their needs,” McBride said. “It creates a really positive environment.”

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