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Students, Faculty Work Through Transition


Dothan, Ala. – With schools across the country going to an online platform to help flatten the curve of COVID-19, Wallace Community College students and faculty found themselves adjusting to a new normal.


Classes moved online, and everyone is doing their part to making the transition go as smooth as possible.


English instructor Sarah Alsammani said the first few weeks of the transition have been a major learning curve for her and her students. 


“My teaching style is informed by my time working in The Writing Center tutoring students one-on-one, so it is a challenge to take that philosophy and integrate it into an online format. However, my students have impressed me immensely in that they adapted quickly to this new circumstance,” Alsammani said. “I am learning from them. I have learned that rapport that we have established this semester can continue even through a computer screen. I have also learned patience and the importance of continually supporting one another through this challenging time.”


Stephanie Carmichael, who is majoring in Criminal Justice with an emphasis in Law Enforcement, said the transition has been easy for her, thanks to the faculty and staff at the College.  


“Wallace is handling this phenomenally. My favorite example is looking back to Wallace's social media on March 17. Wallace posted a picture of our faculty and staff on campus working hard to transition to online learning with technology training sessions,” Carmichael said. “That post was so assuring, personally. Seeing all of my faculty, my instructors, and familiar faces gave an immediate sense of ease during the chaos.”


Alsammani said she had a really encouraging moment recently when she was reviewing student answers to a discussion board post about two works of literature: Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess" and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee.”


“Normally, I have students get into groups, pick a question from the board, and they must provide an answer for the class in a few minutes time. This is how I keep students engaged and working together to solve the question and analyze the work,” Alsammani said. “I was worried how our discussions would transition to online; however, the answers I received not only made me feel relieved that they understood the literature, but I cheered out loud as I read some of the most insightful and original ideas about the works that I have ever read … I have brilliant students, and this moment only emphasized that truth.” 


For Carmichael, being in the classroom is where she feels she belongs, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a benefit to learning from home. 


“Pajamas are a fantastic advantage,” Carmichael said. “I miss my classmates, my instructors, and the class time that we all made fun together as a group. I feel as if I have a greater learning experience with such a connection.”


Grace Poynter, an English major who plans to graduate in the summer, said she definitely misses being on campus and in the classroom, but she’s doing her best to adjust and make the most of the situation. 


“I have had a few self-pity sessions about it,” Poynter said of not being on campus. “Wallace became my second home over the past two years, and just being on the campus makes me have a warm feeling because I know there are so many people around me who care about me.”

That hasn’t slowed her down though. 


“I feel like all of this has been a big lesson to not take the little things for granted, such as getting to go to campus. I just cannot praise the instructors enough for getting this all together so quickly while many of them are at home trying to also teach their children,” Poynter said. “The little things like Kim Sonanstine still being her happy self and Brandi Wallace literally messaging me just to check on my mental state have been the things to get me through this mess. [I’m] definitely going to miss all of the faculty at Wallace.”


Though the transition has been going well, Alsammani said she is ready to be back on campus and seeing her students face to face. 


“I have learned that I am not as introverted as I once felt I was,” Alsammani said. “I miss seeing students. I miss my colleagues. I miss the home Wallace has become for me. We are a family, and I am ready for this pandemic to end so I can go back to where I truly belong.” 

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