PEORIA, AZ — On average, teacher Rebekah Hiller has 10 students, and each of them sign up for 30 minute sessions.
The Peoria mother of 4 is an English language teacher through the company VIP Kid.
One of her students is a nine-year-old who goes by the name ‘Penguin’.
Hiller says, “Is it a beautiful day in Shanghai? (penguin responds) yes it is a sunny today.”
Out of her Peoria home, inside a closet made to look like a classroom, Hiller builds virtual relationships with her students in China as she teaches them to read, write and speak English.
In the days of COVID-19, this interaction is more than just teaching and learning a language.
“He was very excited to share with me that the hospital was built in 10 days,” says Hiller speaking about one of her high school students living in Shanghai.
On the day we met Penguin we learned his parents had recently gone back to work after being quarantined for months.
“Wow look so fast penguin,” says Hiller as she teaches him sight words in the midst of a world pandemic.
At nine-years-old the coronavirus is always in Penguin's mind.
Hiller says, “Are you drawing the virus yet? I know you are you did that last time”.
At one point during his lesson Penguin turns the camera and shows us the densely populated city; it’s been two months since Penguin has stepped foot at his school.
Social distancing is still very much part of life.
“They are not back in school but their parents are going back to work. Slowly some places are back open, you can go to restaurants but you have to sign in and continue to sit 6 feet apart just in case there is a positive case that comes to the grocery store or restaurant,” says Hiller.
On the day we met Penguin he was a few minutes late to this class, something he never does. ”You were playing outside yes?" says Hiller.
He brings out his toys to show to teacher "Bekah." It's a sign that his childhood is still very much alive.
“It definitely gives us hope to know that normal life will return. We just have to be patient and listen to our leaders and help one another,” says Hiller.
And yet a future uncertain both in China and here at home.
“will you go to school next year?“ asks Rebekah. “I don’t know,” says Penguin.
Hiller says VIP is always hiring and all that is needed is a bachelor's degree and no teacher certificate.
If you’d like more information about VIP kid here is a link and email to teacher Rebekah Hiller:firstname.lastname@example.org.