Andrew Thonstad at Sioux Center High School

Teaching a full classroom of students from his computer at home wasn’t much of a challenge to Sioux Center High School business teacher Andrew Thonstad thanks to experience gained from remote learning at the end of the last school year.

SIOUX CENTER—Andrew Thonstad brought his work him with him in a new way last week.

Although there were students in Thonstad’s classes last week Monday and Wednesday, Thonstad himself was at home, teaching them from the computer, his face on the classroom smartboard as a substitute teacher watched over the students in person.

It was a new way for the 46-year-old Sioux Center High School business teacher to lead his classes, but it worked out well enough thanks to lessons learned from the end of the last school year, when everyone took their education to online platforms.

Thonstad took up the new teaching arrangement so he could look after his 11-year-old son, who had been exposed to someone who had tested positive for the coronavirus. That meant the son had to quarantine for 14 days, with Thonstad and his wife, Carrie, watching for any symptoms.

“I stayed home with him on Monday and Wednesday and my wife stayed home with him on Tuesday and Thursday,” he said.

His son hadn’t experienced any symptoms throughout the quarantine and was able to return to school Friday.

“The first day, he was nervous and unsure of what this all meant,” Thonstad said. “But after we talked about it, he understood. It’s been fine. He’s been doing his schoolwork at home with either myself or my wife nearby and trying to stay on top of things the best he can.”

With a few of his students attending his classes remotely, Thonstad was already comfortable teaching with a camera and recording lessons.

The decision to continue teaching his classes from home came from a desire to maintain classroom consistency. And given the technical stuff involved in some of computer-oriented classes, he thought it’d be a favor to the substitute not to throw them into the middle of a unit they might not be prepared for.

“I knew where we were at and I could answer their questions and we could still work on building those relationships,” Thonstad said. “So Monday with the people who were subbing for me, the biggest thing they had to do was make sure we could get the camera rolling on the laptop. Then I was projected on the screen and I would either be the Oz like, that floating head out there, or I could share my screens and share the different things I wanted to cover.”

The students are still getting into the routine of school, but Thonstad has noticed a happiness from the students to be at school again.

“I think they realize they missed out on some things at the end of last year and missed their friends,” he said. “It’s been fun because they’re excited to be there. Even if they don’t like the class, they’re excited to be there. We’re going to hang onto that for as long as we can.”

Thonstad also expressed his gratitude for the tools the teachers have been given that have enabled them to deliver a more flexible education for their students.

“I think the big thing here is that I am thankful the school had the foresight to put the right tools in our hands,” he said. “All of us teachers are doing something a little different, but a lot of times it’s based on what we teach, how we teach. We’re trying to make it work the best we can for all of our students. We’re all very thankful we have the tools to make that happen on a regular basis.”