EQUITABLE INNOVATION GRANTS BLOG SERIESLiving COVID History Project
Each year, the Los Angeles County Office of Education honors some of our most talented educators through the Teachers of the Year (TOY) awards program. We launched the TOY Equitable Innovation Grant program to invest in more dynamic teacher leaders, develop new strategies to help students, share best practices with other educators, and leverage the network of incredible TOY honorees. Each week we will feature grantees highlighting what they have done and continue to do for their schools.
This week’s TOY Blogpost is dedicated to Alicia Tito.
One of the most profound aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic was the universality of its consequences. Bound by our struggle to overcome the pandemic, we accomplished amazing things despite immense challenges. Equitable Innovation Grant winner, Alicia Tito, feared her students at the Math, Science, and Technology Magnet Academy at Roosevelt High School would be quick to relegate the past year to the back of their minds, dismissing the historic nature of their ability to overcome such a challenge.
“My students are bright, energetic, and, under normal circumstances, ready and eager to learn. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has really impacted their motivation and drive to learn,” Tito shared. Tired, unmotivated, and deflated by the pandemic, Tito’s students needed to be reengaged in their learning and reminded of the importance of their voice. In the spirit of a true TOY faced with a seemingly gargantuan task, Tito responded by creating the Living COVID History Project.
Tito asked her students a seemingly simple but profound question, “how will you and the world remember the COVID-19 pandemic?” With this question in mind, Tito’s students began telling their stories. Students created individual websites to document their experiences throughout the pandemic, digitally journaling their everyday life under a new normal. Their reflections on the evolving nature of seemingly mundane activities like eating and hanging out with friends painted clear pictures of the real-world effects of the pandemic.
“Today I feel sad/tired because I haven’t really gotten out, I just stayed home doing nothing but sometimes I do my homework. I feel sad because I haven’t seen my friends since the pandemic started and I haven’t had soccer practice for a while now.”
These were the exact stories Tito had hoped to draw from her students. “There will be a lot of official information and data collected from news reports and broadcasts, but it will be primary sources – accounts from actual individuals as they live life in this year – that will be able to capture the human experience and tell the story,” says Tito.
Her students did not stop there – they started a podcast series hosting conversations with classmates about their experience navigating life under COVID-19. Her students did not just live through a monumental moment in history, they created history. The myriad of stories, journal entries, and pictures shared by her students clearly illustrate the human experience Tito sought to draw out, one which we can all relate to and one which we will be able to look back on years from now.
With the help of the Greater LA Education Foundation’s Equitable Innovation Grant Program, Tito and her students were not only able to create history, but also give back to themselves during such a challenging year. Tito’s students began their individual “self-care” journeys during the final months of quarantine wrapping up the strenuous year with an apt reminder of the importance of one’s socio-emotional health. Tito used funding from the Equitable Innovation Grant program to send each student a self-care kit. “Sending these self-care boxes to my students will make them feel seen and will invite them to begin a long journey of being kind to themselves,” Tito shared. Students will document their self-care experience on their websites and reflect on their growth in a new podcast episode.