Distance learning at The Altamont School is mission-driven and fun

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Photo courtesy of The Altamont School

Rob Dominguez, Altamont’s Director of Education Technology, was prepared for the worst. 

The school’s switch to distance learning resulting from the COVID-19 outbreak may have been a bit easier because as he says, “I saw it coming.”

Weeks before Altamont and schools throughout the state of Alabama closed, Dominguez made plans to set the school’s distance learning program in motion. As he soon discovered, Altamont was ready.

Rob Dominguez

With all that is going on around us, everyone is learning new ways to make school happen that don’t involve being physically together. 

Altamont is uniquely positioned to meet this challenge. 

Mission-Driven 

The mission of the Altamont School has always been to improve the fabric of society by graduating compassionate, well-educated individuals, capable of independent thinking and innovative ideas.

That’s the recipe. Dominguez provided the ingredients. 

Want your child to be a part of a community like this one? Get more info here.

Well-Educated: Teachers are “All In”

Photo courtesy of The Altamont School

Distance learning does not work unless teachers are flexible and committed to it.

One of the biggest hallmarks at Altamont is the autonomy teachers have to teach classes the way they see fit. Everyone has their own style. 

“It would have been very difficult to do any of this if the faculty had not been eager and confident with distance learning,” said Dominguez.  “Every single teacher got behind it, starting from the time we said there was a possibility of closing the school because of the pandemic. They were very proactive and wanted to do what was best for their students. Without that happening, it would have been hard to be in the position we are in right now.”

Moreover, as a Microsoft School with a 1-to-1 laptop program, Altamont is fortunate to have a robust infrastructure in place that made the transition from traditional to online learning a smooth one. 

Creative and Innovative Student Body

Ok, Altamont has got the teachers, computers and distance learning working, but what about social life in the age of shelter in place? 

According to Dominguez, after the first week away from school, a senior parent emailed him, saying these kids are going crazy, unable to see each other. They really need an opportunity to do something social. 

The teachers and students got creative.

The Altamont School teacher Buck Crowe

Using the school’s distance learning tools, two Altamont teachers, Buck Crowe and Robby Ballard, have been heading up faculty trivia competitions for students. The first events involved seniors and juniors, drawing more than half the classes per session. The teachers are no strangers to the trivia scene in Birmingham. Both have led trivia nights at local breweries, including Good People and Cahaba. They intend to conduct additional trivia competitions for all grades in the coming weeks.

The Altamont SGA is also stepping up, organizing school-wide “challenges” that vary from a Family Tik Tok competition to a “Thank You to Our Essential Workers” challenge.

In addition to fun and games, Altamont upper school students are working with their computer science teacher to make a difference during the COVID-19 crisis. Using Altamont’s 3-D printer and laser cutter, the students are creating medical masks and protective shields for the Birmingham medical community. 

None of these activities can replace soccer games, the spring musical and formal, but they are a start, and who knows what else they may come up with.

Compassionate Individuals

Mayor Woodfin, Matthew Mugweru, Thomas Hitt, Eleanor Roth, and Lauren Perry. Photo from Pat Byington for Bham Now

One final ingredient woven into Altamont’s mission-driven fabric is compassionate individuals.  

The C. Kyser Miree Center, Altamont’s leadership hub, is continuing to coordinate stay-at-home community service opportunities. In total, more than 80 projects are in the works. Here is a sampling.

Check out Bham Now’s 2019 feature story about the Miree Center, a nationally recognized program.

Keeping in Touch

Even though Rob Dominguez receives far fewer emails than when Altamont’s distance learning plan was launched, he is always seeking out ways to make it better,

“On a weekly basis, we have been surveying faculty, students and parents to see how things are going.  We are constantly trying to improve and prune the pieces that don’t have to be a part of distant learning. We were one of the first schools in Alabama to stop having in-person classes. We could not do that if we were not confident in our faculty and staff and the resources we have.”

Opportunities for prospective families

Meanwhile, parents and students who want to be a part of improving the “fabric of society” are invited to learn more about Altamont on their Admissions page. 

Summer School 

What better way to experience Altamont than through their online summer school? In addition to credit courses in Geometry, Public Speaking, and Ancient and Medieval Cultures, Drivers Ed and ACT Prep courses are also offered. Register for the online course – HERE.

New – On-Campus classes offered July 27 until August 7

Also just announced, Altamont is planning for two weeks of English and math enrichment camps, from 8 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday, from July 27 until August 7 on campus.

While nothing can possibly be certain at this time, the move to late July and early August maximizes the chances that they can provide the one-on-one attention and personalization that characterize Altamont’s summer camps. 

We also hope that this timing will better serve the needs of your children as they prepare to transition back into school in the fall, ensuring that they enter the next school year stronger and better prepared than ever.

Register today – HERE

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  • Longtime conservationist. Former Executive Director at the Alabama Environmental Council and Wild South. Publisher of the Bama Environmental News for more than 18 years. Career highlights include playing an active role in the creation of Alabama's Forever Wild program, Little River Canyon National Preserve, Dugger Mountain Wilderness, preservation of special places throughout the East through the Wilderness Society and the strengthening (making more stringent) the state of Alabama's cancer risk and mercury standards.