Building Community with the eLearning Cafe

PPHS was founded on the principles of creating innovative solutions to real-world problems, and one of our coaches not only teaches that principle but uses it to solve a school-wide problem as well. 

When we first implemented eLearning as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic there were a lot of challenges we expected, internet access, student attendance, and how to make hands-on projects happen at home, and some that we didn’t, like how the lack of casual staff interaction would impact our community and project planning process.  

One coach, Special Education Teacher Nicole Schadek, recognized the issue immediately, and in true PPHS problem-solving fashion, came up with a solution. She was missing the casual interaction and exchange of ideas that happened organically throughout the day at PPHS. Without passing one another in the hallway, meeting at the printer, or eating lunch together, those little interactions and casual conversations were gone. There was no opportunity to say, “Hey I’m trying this new thing with this student and it’s working really well” or “This project is not going how I’d hoped it would, what would you do?”. 

Noticing the lack of opportunities for organic collegial support, Coach Schadek started to brainstorm a solution. She knew she wanted a space for comradery and support for coaches adjusting to eLearning. This idea inspired her to create the eLearning Cafe. This virtual cafe served as a space for our coaches to share experiences to level up their eLearning strategies and support one another across PPHS campuses. Each virtual meeting includes a “menu” of topics for conversation and reflection, including time for coaches to provide feedback to one another. 

From the first session, coach feedback and attendance were overwhelmingly positive. Coaches love the idea of being able to share best practices and resources and brainstorm solutions for common problems, but more than that - they appreciate the community and support from one another. Coach Schadek has always believed that the school isn’t just a workplace, but a community when asked why the PPHS community is so important she says...

 “We have so many of us that are losing family members, family members losing jobs, and so much more, FAMILY is what you need during times like these. I like to think that cultivating a "family" community is what we are doing at PPHS, and that matters more than I could ever explain in words. People always say that, "raising a child takes a village."  Well, this is our village, and we are setting out to make accomplished individuals by their own rights and criteria.” 

The eLearning Cafe has given our staff somewhere to connect, recharge, and share with one another even while we all work from different locations and even as we return to in-person education the connections that we’ve made between campuses will remain fostered by our collaboration during eLearning Cafe.


Published on 2/8/2021