PHOENIX — The state of education is creating plenty of challenges but also, opportunities.
Since schools first went remote in March of 2020 ABC15 has been highlighting the many ways teachers are going above and beyond to keep students learning.
"It's definitely been a completely different year than any of my other years of teaching," said Candace Greene, an art teacher in the Alhambra Elementary School District in Phoenix. "This is my 19th year teaching."
Greene admits that engaging her fourth through eighth-graders has not always been easy.
"The first quarter of the school year was definitely a struggle to get kids to show up to class, to get them to turn in assignments," said Greene.
With more than 400 students and less than 40% attending regularly, Greene knew something had to change.
"I tried to turn something negative into a positive and let my students see art in their world," Greene said.
That is when her live, virtual field trips began. From Sedona to a deer farm in Williams and murals in downtown Phoenix, Greene travels across the state, often on weekends and after school.
"Just walking around and talking to an iPad, and I do get looks, but I also get people who follow me," said Greene. "They follow me and they're like 'I'm trying to listen, I'm learning something!'"
Eighth-grader Hanna Allen says it is a welcome and educational escape.
"I really like the trip where we went to the deer farm," said Allen. "For me, my house is packed with siblings, so it's been kind of stressful finding my own workplace."
Jazlynn Do Le tells ABC15 it is a chance to experience new places together.
"We went to the Grand Canyon and she told us to draw the Grand Canyon and it was really fun," she said. "That was my first time actually seeing it."
It is a lot of travel and a lot of miles but the effort is paying off. Greene now has 99% engagement and students from other classes have started joining too.
"Whether they're typing in the chat or they're unmuting or, you know, they like to share their art when we're talking with other artists," Greene said.
Even other teachers are taking note and trying it themselves. Greene says these are the silver linings of a school year unlike any other.
"I feel that I've made deeper connections with my students this year than I ever have before," said Greene.