18 Resources for the 2020–2021 School Year from Extraordinary Educators

By: | 01/06/2021
Categories: Distance Learning, Leadership

The 44 teachers who were recently elected to Curriculum Associates’ 2021 class of Extraordinary Educators each demonstrated exemplary commitment to innovation, student growth and engagement, and the pursuit of professional excellence. They come from 26 different states and Washington, DC, and a gamut of backgrounds.

Like so many educators across the country, they’ve all faced incredible challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It goes without saying that this has been an unprecedented school year that has challenged educators, students, and families alike,” said Rob Waldron, CEO of Curriculum Associates. “However, this group of Extraordinary Educators—like so many other educators across the country—has more than risen to the occasion.”

How are these 44 individuals meeting the unique demands of their students during remote or blended learning? What are they doing to reach students who would otherwise be left behind by the digital divide? How are they accommodating different learning styles and skill levels?

In this post, I share the resources the 2021 Extraordinary Educators are using to help them navigate teaching and learning in the 2020–2021 school year. Some information may be old news to you (and will hopefully reassure you about the path you’re on), but I hope you find plenty of new ideas to try!

Provide hard copies of lessons to students who needed them.

Extraordinary Educators have gotten lessons, worksheets, and other physical materials to students via “snail mail.” They’ve also driven to students’ homes and left them or distributed them to families when they came to school buildings to pick up meals.

Give students access to digital planners to help them stay organized.

Preload the planners with tasks and assignments students need to complete. myHomework Student Planner is just one example of a digital planner that easily integrates with platforms you’re already using.

Integrate social-emotional learning into instruction.

Having your students write in journals, help plan class events, and practice positive self-talk are just a few examples of activities you can incorporate into your lesson plans.


"We wanted to make sure students knew we cared, we were there for them emotionally, and that we would support them as best we could from afar."
—Marine Freibrun, Fifth Grade Teacher, East Canyon Elementary School, Nampa, Idaho

Ensure visual digital resources are accessible to students of all abilities.

If your school or district doesn’t provide accessibility guidelines, you can find thorough information on the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C®) website.

Accommodate different learning styles.

Develop lesson plans that cater to different learning styles, including verbal and kinesthetic.

Make goals S.M.A.R.T.

Research has shown that S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound) learning goals lead to greater self-efficacy and motivation.

Adopt a classroom motto.

Julie Dossantos, a teacher in the School District of Indian River County in Vero Beach, Florida, tells her students, “Practice makes progress.” Emily Cortes, a fifth grade science and math teacher in Tampa, uses her principal’s motto, “Everyone learns every day.” to guide her.

Turn learning into a game.

Use gamification (the use of game principles and elements in non-game contexts) to make instruction and activities engaging. If your school uses i-Ready Learning, your students already have access to math Learning Games. If you want to create your own games, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) has a helpful guide to resources, including ones that are free.

"Our students deserve instruction designed to meet their needs and instruction that will catapult them toward reaching their greatest potential."
—Emily Cortes, Fifth Grade Math and Science Teacher, Oak Park Elementary, Tampa, Florida


Replicate your physical classroom routines in your digital classroom.

Crystal Strong, an elementary school teacher in Savannah, Georgia, built time for music, morning work alerts, daily well-being check-ins, and fun breaks into the digital school day. When you establish a routine and stick to it, learning activities are predictable and support students getting right to work. This can increase time on task!

Connect ASAP after assessments.

Meet with students and families for data chats immediately after students take the i-Ready Diagnostic (or other assessments) so as a team you can work together to help students tackle learning goals. Read “The Dos and Don’ts of Having Virtual Data Chats with Students and Families” for best practices.

Record all lessons.

Marine Freibrun, a fifth grade teacher at East Canyon Elementary School in Nampa, Idaho, created a YouTube channel to share videos. Other Extraordinary Educators have disseminated lesson recordings through their schools’ learning platforms, email, and (for students without internet access) smartphones.

Show your work.

Share versions of student work packets after assignments are due with the correct answers and explanations of how they were reached.

Don’t forget group projects.

Trifon Perges, a special education teacher in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, makes cooperative learning part of virtual learning through small group assignments, which give students a safe space to share their thoughts. (Tip: Use Zoom breakout rooms to facilitate student group work.)

Remember “offline” learning.

Remember that not all students have easy access to technology or the internet. Many are sharing devices with siblings and other family members, and some are accessing Wi-Fi through avenues outside their homes. Ensure you balance virtual learning with other activities. (Read  “How to Take Learning Offline during Remote Learning” for offline learning ideas!)

Rely on the most recent data.

Utilize continuous student data (i.e., what lessons are being passed, who needs additional support with what, etc.) from i-Ready Learning or other online instruction programs to stay on top of students’ learning needs and ensure data doesn’t get stale in between assessments.

Get supplies to students.

Host a materials pick-up where students can grab workbooks, crayons, math manipulatives, etc., to use at home.

Travel with virtual field trips.

Use backyard and/or virtual field trips to teach STEAM and/or reward students. Several museums and other organizations have made field-trip-ready resources free and open to the public during remote learning, including NASA, San Diego Zoo, and the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

“I expect this entire school year will continue to be a balancing act for the teachers as well as the students.”
—Tracie M. Porter, Teacher, Holden School, Holden, Louisiana


Make use of technology.

You’re probably familiar with many of the apps and programs Extraordinary Educators are using—Zoom, Google Classroom, Microsoft Teams, etc. The apps below are just a few examples of the many other programs Extraordinary Educators have found beneficial.

ClassTag®: Family-teacher communication app

Clever: Single sign-on digital learning platform for managing learning resources (i-Ready compatible!)

Epic!: Reading app with more than 40,000 eBooks, audiobooks, and videos

Kami®: Online tool for modifying PDFs and creating interactive lessons and assignments

Listenwise: Standards-aligned podcast lessons featuring real-world stories and academic vocabulary

Securly™: Student device and safety management software that tracks how school devices are being used, filters web pages, audits documents, and more

Screencastify: Chrome™ extension for recording computer screens, making simple video edits, and sharing recorded lessons

Before you begin using a new education app, be sure it meets your school’s or district’s privacy and safety requirements. Common Sense Education® a nonprofit organization that offers thorough reviews of education technology, is an excellent place to start your research

Stay Tuned . . .

We’ll be sharing insight from the 2021 class of Extraordinary Educators on the blog throughout the year. Subscribe to the blog newsletter and/or find our RSS feed in the sidebar to make sure you don’t miss a thing.

To learn more about the 2021 Extraordinary Educators, click below.


ClassTag® is a registered trademark of Classtag, Inc.

Common Sense® is a registered trademark of Common Sense Media.

Kami® is a registered trademark of Kami Limited.

Securly™ is a trademark of Securly, Inc.

W3C® is a registered trademark of World Wide Web Consortium.

Chrome™ is a distinctive brand feature of Google, Inc.

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