BREA, Calif. — From a distance, the curriculum doesn’t seem all that different. Neither do the questions and answers.

Thanks to technology, even though she can’t be in her Brea classroom, Fanning Academy of Science and Technology teacher Lisa Esparza can still teach from a distance.

Talking online can have some lag and takes some patience, but the screen—which might never replace the white board—still allows her to see their faces.

“They would love to be next to me or next to each other in the classroom, but they’re eager to jump on,” said Esparza.


In combination with Google Classroom and now Zoom, she’s managing to keep her students learning after their school, along with the more than 10,000 public schools in California, was ordered to close amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“We lean on each other for support because it’s not easy for us and it’s not something that there’s a ‘how to’ book on any of this,” said Esparza.

As students work on their assignments from a distance, you might think kids love staying home, but Jeremiah does miss being at school.

“What I mostly miss about my school is our daily morning routine and seeing all my PE teachers and hanging out, walking around,” said Jeremiah.

Esparza has turned hard copies into virtual lesson plans for her 36 nine and 10-year-olds. The district distributed more than 1,400 Chromebooks to some of their 6,000 students who might not have access to a computer — even working to help families who needed access to Wi-Fi. Fanning Principal Theresa Stevens who was observing the class while working from home says the sense of community has made learning possible.



“[It] has just been a great way for us to kind of see the light and something positive that’s coming out of something that is scary and unknown,” said Stevens.

As a mother of three herself, Esparza is keeping her assignments flexible, understanding that it’s a challenging time for everyone. But no distance can keep her from seeing her students.

“It’s those moments where you have to lean on each other and say, ‘What’s working for you?’ Personally, professionally, whatever. And yeah, we are each others’ rocks,” Esparza said.

Brea Olinda Unified School District is also providing more than 4,000 grab-and-go breakfasts and lunches for students every week.

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