EDITOR'S NOTE: “Columbus Champion” is an initiative to recognize and tell the stories of local individuals who have gone above and beyond to make a positive impact on the Columbus community.
If you know someone in the Columbus community who has gone above and beyond to make a positive impact, nominate them as a Columbus Champion!
Written by: Aaron Tomich, ColumbusCrewSC.com
Published: June 29, 2020
Cars lined up in the parking lot in a caravan-like formation. Students from all grades, their parents as chauffeurs, had been given specific timeslots to be able to return to their school building to reclaim any left-behind belongings.
They had not seen their teachers and administrators in-person since mid-March.
Kyle Scott, a fifth-grade math teacher at Belpre Elementary School, finally got to see his students face-to-face in May, this time not through a video chat. He handed them their belongings and materials and then would have a quick chat – a sort of catch-up conversation.
“Sometimes you don’t realize how much of an impact you’ve made until somebody actually tells you that,” he said. “You just take it for granted and do your job, and when a parent or a kid tells you that this is their best year they’ve ever had – that they loved it and miss you – that really means a lot.”
Kyle, like many other teachers and educators nationwide, had no idea that his last day of in-class instruction would be in mid-March. When he noticed trends on the news of different functions of society beginning to shut down within a week’s time, he had a hunch feeling.
Parent-teacher conferences were in session at Belpre Elementary School, and he recalled the odd situation he was in.
“I had a feeling that this was the last week of school in-person,” he said. “When the state’s K through 12 closing announcement was made, I was kind of in shock. It was weird during these conferences not knowing when we’d be back.”
He described the days and weeks that followed as somewhat hectic and a time that flew by fast. Colleges, sports leagues and multiple parts of human daily life shut down quickly.
“It was way too much for anybody to process, I think,” he said. “It was definitely a couple days that I’ll never forget.”
Adapting to Change
A plethora of potential problems were presented for Kyle and his district upon this new, unknown period. As an educator, he immediately thought of his young students and how these socially-distant changes would affect them.
Kyle prides himself (though, his humility outshines any sort of self-centeredness) in his teaching methods. His hands-on, student-focused approach reflects the very core of his character and reasoning behind his passion to teach: “I’ve always wanted to help people. I wanted to find a career that I thought would be beneficial to society and to kids,” he said.
Normally, he would teach in smaller, specific, step-by-step chunks of the material for the week. Each math problem would be mastered by each student first before moving on to the next one. He finds that teaching the general problem first, then breaking the students up into groups (based on different levels of mastery) and individually checking those groups, creates the most success.
One of the first potential problems Kyle noticed was the near-impossibility of re-creating that social environment of the classroom, along with his personality and enthusiasm in-person that connects so well with his students. A layer deeper, the issues of accessibility waived an immediate red flag.
Belpre, Ohio is located on the Ohio River, bordering the West Virginia city of Parkersburg in the heart of Ohio’s Appalachia region. A prevalent issue in this area is the lack of widespread internet availability.
With distance-learning being put in motion, this was a huge concern for Kyle and the school district, which acted swiftly; over 200 Google Chromebook laptops were loaned throughout the elementary school. Guides on places that offered free internet access as well as local internet provider programs designed to aid those in need were sent to each student and their families.
Even with that aid, he is concerned with students keeping up on their course material with the limitations of online learning. “There’s only so much we can do at this level,” he said. “Given the situation, there’s not much else we can do.”
One example of Kyle’s creativity with making online learning exciting and successful was his newly-adapted review sections, where he created problems to solve using special connections to his individual students, such as using their names and interests like basketball and even Pokémon.
Another worry for Kyle with the lack of in-person classes is the wellbeing of his students, be it in their academic success, their mental health and their physical safety.
“The part that hurt the most is that I view education kind of half ‘the standards we need to teach’ and half ‘what else can I teach these kids?’” he said.
Kyle strives to help his students become the best people they can be. He wants to see them strive and grow and impact their community and beyond. But at a new distance, that became immediately difficult.
“Some [students] have gone through trauma. They’ve gone through things you wouldn’t expect to see or even experience as an adult,” he said. “Having somebody there for five days a week, seven hours a day who is there for you, that cares for them and then suddenly not having that for the last two months of school, that part hurt. I take that part of my job pretty seriously.”
When it comes to food, Kyle’s school district acted in a similar way to that in Pickaway County with another Columbus Champion, where lunches and meals were delivered directly to students.
Home is Where the Heart Is
Kyle’s roots are deep in Appalachia Ohio. He basically never left.
He went to Warren High School, not too far from Belpre, then later went on to attend Ohio University in Athens where he studied education. He lives in the community and knows where his future lies.
“I’ve tried to really make this place home,” he said. “When my wife and I bought a house here in Belpre, it was kind of the deciding factor. I don’t plan on going anywhere else. I want to teach here for the rest of my career.”
Kyle is in the process of getting his principal’s license on top of teaching his elementary students, coaching varsity men’s golf at the high school and junior high school men’s basketball. Adding to all this involvement, he was just given the position of the junior high school athletic director.
“I enjoy what I do and try to make the most difference that I can,” he said.
For many people around the world, missing out on sports has been something of a loss for Kyle, his friends and his wife, Katie.
Through coaching golf and basketball, along with a general love for sports, he has found a way to connect with people in a whole new light. His friends are to credit for his deep interest in soccer, too. During the 2014 World Cup, they invited him to watch the U.S. Men’s National Team, which evolved into a young fandom with the Crew.
Attending a few matches to finish off the end of the Crew’s 2014 season had him hooked.
“I haven’t missed a game since September of 2015,” he said with a slight chuckle.
Kyle and Katie have scheduled vacations around the Black & Gold’s road travels. They’ve seen games in Colorado and New York City to name a few and have ambitions to travel the nation to watch their team when it is safe to do so again.
His own fandom and enjoyment of sports aside, Kyle – from the very core of his selfless character – reflects again about his beloved students and their unusual end to the 2019/2020 school year.
“I don’t want to see more kids miss out on their sports,” he said, looking to the future. “I can only imagine how [the spring-sports athletes] felt. If golf had to miss their season, I would be devastated, and I know my kids would be too.”