NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. — It’s been almost a full year of remote learning for millions of students across the country.

Teachers have had to get creative to maintain engagement while teaching through a screen.

What You Need To Know

  • It's been nearly a year of online learning for millions of students across the U.S. 

  • The Southern California chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics has called for schools to immediately reopen, a position that is opposed by United Teachers L.A.

  • James Corboy is a middle school teacher at Avalon School on Catalina Island who has gotten creative with teaching during the pandemic

  • Nominate a hero in your community by emailing

As a middle school science teacher at Avalon School, James Corboy instructs students living 30 miles away on Catalina Island. He has always considered himself to be a quiet guy, but the pandemic made him change.

"You just got to bring the game up," Corboy said. "You’ve gotta be like a performer. I am not. I’m an introvert."

Most of Corboy's students are at-risk and from low-income families, and when they were left to learn over Zoom, Corboy felt the disconnect.

"They don’t want to be on-screen, and I don’t think I would," he said. "So we got to understand where they are coming from. They’re trying really hard. They’re coming to my class every day, and I think my biggest thing right now is just to have them there, because they can’t learn if they’re not there."

Corboy wanted science class to be fun, an escape from the daily stresses he knows his students face. He made it his mission to show science in the way he sees it — full of fantastic phenomena.

Over the past year, this former introvert has transformed into a showman, and his Newport Beach garage has become both his laboratory and stage. And he’s noticed it works. His students have increased engagement, along with improved writing and reading skills. 

"I want to give them an award for showing up every day," said Corboy. "I think one of the things that kids don’t have is this awe for physical and natural wonder."

This is how Corboy found his purpose.

"If I can teach kids to be lifelong learners like I am, then I’ve done my job," he said.

His hope is that even when class is done, the curiosity of his students will continue.