Leading K-12 Educators Effectively Through a Pandemic

Posted on April 12, 2021
Amber Day

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 educators were forced to quickly dive into new technology to efficiently communicate with families and continue to teach students. Everyone can agree, media specialists and school librarians are the heart of K-12 schools. Dr. Pamela Moore has continued to provide guidance and inspiration to educators across the U.S. through training, personal phone calls, and teaching in her own virtual classroom.  data-lightbox='featured'
Dr. Pamela Moore, an assistant professor and coordinator for educational media and technology graduate program at South, helped more than 200 local K-12 educators navigate through new technology when COVID-19 forced schools to remote learning.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, K-12 educators were forced to quickly dive into new technology to efficiently communicate with families and continue to teach students. Everyone can agree, media specialists and school librarians are the heart of K-12 schools. Dr. Pamela Moore has continued to provide guidance and inspiration to educators across the U.S. through training, personal phone calls, and teaching in her own virtual classroom. 

“When we first found out we were going to be in a pandemic, we were all in a state of shock,” said Moore, who serves as an assistant professor and coordinator for the educational media and educational technology graduate program in the USA College of Education and Professional Studies. “When Dr. Stephanie Hulon, the director of the South Alabama   (SARIC), reached out, I was one of the first to talk with her to provide support. I felt like there was going to be so many resources to where the average educator would feel like ‘I can’t take all of this and process all of this.’”

During one of the first SARIC workshops that Moore hosted, she focused on telling people “we can do this.” 

“The ‘Pam-ism’ in me says that I am a natural encourager. I wanted them to know that it was going to be okay,” Moore said. “We can strategically plan our way. I am very logical minded and I wanted people to know that we can do this. We can survive through this.”

More than 200 local K-12 educators attend that first SARIC call on Zoom to hear from Moore. Aside from general encouragement, Moore wanted to make sure educators remembered that as they navigated through the new technology to always maintain community with their students, parents, and other educators. 

“Teachers needed to make sure they still assessed their students’ class work, presented the information effectively, but also allowed for ways to give feedback virtually,” Moore said. “I wanted to be sure they remembered that even when using this new technology, teachers made sure the students were actually learning. We then discussed ways in which they could do just that.”

Educators were given just a few short weeks to transition their classrooms and tools for remote learning. Moore dived into researching K-12 virtual learning to make sure she was prepared to help.

“We couldn't even really call this virtual learning, because virtual learning, as I know from having previously taught a course in virtual learning, was planned before you got into the learning situation,” Moore said. “This was more of a remote type of learning. This was sometimes building that plane and flying it at the same time, and being okay with ‘maybe this didn't work, so we have to do something else.’ This was ‘how to pivot learning,’ ‘how to be flexible learning,’ and ‘how to give grace through certain situations.’ And I know, generally, those are not the topics that people think about in a workshop when talking about ‘how can I teach virtually’ or ‘how can I best support my students.’”

Moore explained that these topics were the undergirdings of any type of situation as a K-12 teacher. 

“I tell my undergrad students in EDM 310 all the time, ‘you have to be flexible,’” Moore said. “‘You have to be able to pivot, you have to also think all the time about how to best assist your students with learning the material.’”

Moore also presented with the American Association of School Librarians and the Alabama School Librarians Association at the beginning of the pandemic. 

“They did town hall meetings, and I was so excited that as a professional organization they immediately started to book these town hall meetings,” Moore said. “As a school librarian, you're so isolated. There's typically one librarian on a campus, or if you have a bigger school, there’s two on the campus, so I understand the isolation. It was great to join in with them and talk during the town halls to let people know my ‘Pam-ism,’ as I call it. I focused on sharing, again, that ‘we’re going to be okay, we can learn how to pivot, we can learn how to be flexible, and that you have to be useful for the teachers and students at the schools that you serve.’ Again, I talked about how ‘we are here now. But, what's next? The future is now.’”

“I think it was just a shock for everyone, and so I would go into those sessions and just be a source of encouragement, and sometimes, that's just what they needed to hear.”

Moore received her bachelor’s degree in history with a minor in Spanish from the University of Mobile. She started teaching locally and then received teacher certification in history and Spanish. 

“I am a reader,” Moore said. “I have always been a reader. There’s never been a time in my life that I did not like to read. Becoming a school librarian was my next goal that I set for myself.”

Moore then attended Alabama State University and received a Master of Education in Library Media. 

“That was also a special thing for me because Alabama State University was the school where my parents first met,” said Moore, who is originally from Montgomery. “My dad graduated from there, my grandparents graduated from there, my son is a recent graduate, and my mom worked there. And, if it had not been for Alabama State, there would be no me.”

During her time with Mobile County Public Schools, Moore served as a librarian and taught spanish and computer applications. As she started working more with technology, Moore applied for a position to serve as a technology resource teacher for the district where she provided professional development opportunities for teachers to learn to use technology in the classroom.

“In the mid 90’s, I taught Spanish for one year at B.C. Rain High School,” Moore said. “I then went back to get my teacher certification because my emergency certificate was about to expire. Then, in the late 90’s, for one quarter, I taught a special education course. After that, I was hired to teach Spanish at Grand Bay Middle School, but when I started to talk to the principal there and talked about the great things I was doing with technology, she asked, ‘do you want to teach technology?’ I said ‘sure.’ This was before there was even a curriculum. After getting my teacher certification at the University of Mobile, the ‘ed tech bug’ really bit me.” 

After receiving her master’s in library media, Moore got a job as a school librarian at Florence Howard Elementary in Mobile. 

“Even though I'm the child of an elementary educator, there was never a thought in my mind that I would end up at an elementary school, because I am a secondary minded person, an adult learner kind of person,” Moore said. “It was a lot of fun. It was a new school, so I got a chance to design the library and pick resources for it.”

Moore is a constant learner, and she consistently works to better herself to better others when planning for her future.

“One of the things my grandfather would always tell me is ‘Pamela, you got to get a terminal degree,’” Moore said. “He would always press that you should get your terminal degree. So I investigated and found the program at the University of West Florida, and obtained an Educational Specialist degree in Instructional Technology and then a doctorate degree in Instructional Technology. One would think that would have been it. No. After doing that, it hit me that if I worked in K-12 education, you need to have a leadership certification to move forward. So, I decided to get a master's in leadership at Alabama State University. That's my educational journey, sort of, in a nutshell-interesting route. Very few people decide after getting a doctorate to go back and get another master's degree. But, I did.”

Moore has always worked to share her knowledge with fellow educators throughout her career. One of her first experiences presenting educational technology was at a conference in Birmingham in 1999. 

“I became really passionate about the technology part of education, and after serving as a school librarian, I served as a technology resource teacher for the MCPSS school district for 15 years,” Moore said. “ I then found out about the opportunity to teach at the University of South Alabama. And I was that strange person that had the certification and qualifications in school librarianship, as well as the certifications and qualifications in technology. God makes a way for you. Turns out, I was being prepared to be able to do it.”

Moore started at the University of South Alabama College of Education and Professional Studies in August 2017 and worked to build the educational technology graduate program and progress the library media graduate program as the only faculty member for both programs. The year after she started, Dr. Joe Gaston joined Moore to help teach the educational technology courses.

“While designing new courses for the educational technology program, I was also able to build some new elective courses,” Moore said. “Every year, I’ve come up with new special topics elective courses, such as STEM tools, technology leadership, and virtual learning.”

Moore emphasizes that educational technology is not just for K-12 educators. She and Gaston work hard to make sure they are prepared to teach several types of graduate students based on the students’ professional careers and goals. 

“Our first graduate of the program works at USA Health,” Moore said. “She trains people to use the medical records programs, so she wanted to know what were some skills that she could develop to be more effective to train employees. We've had other students to graduate who are classroom teachers. It's a program that just attracts a lot of different people. We have a student who is working in the USA College of Medicine and wants to learn about different tools and strategies for teaching that can be incorporated in her job.”

Outside of the educational technology program, Moore has become a national leader in the field of library media. She recently served as the keynote speaker for a school district in the suburb of Westchester outside of New York City and also presented at the American Association of School Librarians National Conference.

“I currently serve as programs co-chair for the American Association of School Librarians National Conference to be held in October 2021 in Salt Lake City,” Moore said. “I am working with a really strong team of school librarians and school librarian educators. Getting the chance to work with this national team and develop the conference is a true learning experience. It's a lot of fun.”

Moore encourages her students to take advantage of your professional community while at South as she does in her own career.

“I always tell my students to build their community and look for numerous opportunities to network,” Moore said. “I tell them ‘you are taking classes with future principals, future superintendents, future supervisors, and maybe with the future Secretary of Education. You never know.’”

The Department of Counseling and Instructional Sciences in the College of Education and Professional Studies offers a Master of Education in Educational Media (Library Media). The fully online graduate program is designed to prepare students to plan, design and manage library media centers and certify students to serve as school library media specialists. Prospective students must have a valid bachelor’s- or master’s-level professional educator certificate in a teaching field or a valid master’s-level professional educator certificate in another area of instructional support and a minimum of two years professional teaching experience. Current certified educators qualify for the USA Educator Excellence Scholarship, which equates to 20% of tuition cost each semester for six consecutive semesters.

The department also offers a Master of Science in Educational Technology. The fully online program prepares students to use a variety of technologies, platforms and best practices to support teaching and learning. Program faculty have been instrumental in providing guidance and training to professionals during the pandemic. Are you looking for ways to incorporate educational technology into your current work? Learn about a master's program that will make you feel confident and competitive during this challenging time.

Learn more about these programs at southalabama.edu/colleges/ceps/gradschool/. Contact Dr. Pamela Moore at prmoore@southalabama.edu if you have any questions.

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