Walnut Grove’s New Teacher of Record

Walnut Grove hired a half-time Science teacher to teach its sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in the 2021-2022 school year. “That ended up working out really well for us,” says Rory Henry, Walnut Grove’s 6-12 Principal. “But then she
By Savannah Waszczuk

Walnut Grove hired a half-time Science teacher to teach its sixth, seventh and eighth grade students in the 2021-2022 school year. “That ended up working out really well for us,” says Rory Henry, Walnut Grove’s 6-12 Principal. “But then she retired, and the next teacher we hired ended up retiring two weeks before school started.”

Rewind to August 2022, and Walnut Grove was preparing to welcome students back for the fall semester without a middle school science teacher in place. “We struggled to find a replacement in that short amount of time—especially now with all of the teacher shortages,” Rory says. “We made a decision that what was best for our kids right now was to use Launch for our middle school Science courses.”

Utilizing Launch for a Teacher of Record

Walnut Grove had been using Launch for a little over a year before they turned to the program for their middle school Science needs. “We actually used Launch throughout the pandemic—all of our COVID shutdowns—for our full-time virtual students,” Rory says. “I think we ended up somewhere in the neighborhood of 10-20 full-time virtual students at the time.” This familiarity made it easier to turn to the program for a Science teacher of record. “Of course, we’d prefer a teacher face-to-face, if we had that option,” Rory says. “But we didn’t. And at this time, what we decided on is working out well for us.”

Walnut Grove’s sixth, seventh and eighth grade students still attend their classes at Walnut Grove each day—it’s only when they head to their Science class that things look a bit different. “We hired Mr. Sanders, who is a student teacher here with our PE, to be a facilitator for the students,” Rory says. “He’s in there with them every day, making sure the students keep on track and on task.”

Walnut Grove’s middle school Science students log in to their Launch Science class when they get to the classroom every day, and they watch a video from their Launch Science teacher. Next the classroom facilitator goes over their assignment with them, and then the students use the remainder of the hour to complete coursework. “Mr. Sanders can help with immediate questions, and they also turn to their Launch teacher for help,” Rory says.

The Student Experience

Eighth grade student Sadie Loehr appreciates the additional flexibility she has with her Launch Science course. “I really like the routine—we start out with a lesson with the teacher explaining everything to us, and then we have time to get our work done,” Sadie says. As one of approximately 60 middle school students taking a Launch Science class in Walnut Grove, Sadie also likes how she still has the opportunity to interact with her classmates. “Sometimes we’ll do online labs, but we get to do them in class, too,” Sadie says.

On a recent science experiment, students chose like items to compare, then carried out science experiments to make their comparisons. “I did an experiment to learn which brand of paper towel could absorb the most liquid,” Sadie says. “Some of my classmates compared name-brand versus off-brand crayons and markers. It was fun to do those projects in class.”

Best Practices for a Launch Teacher of Record

Both Sadie and Principal Henry say the Launch training they received at the start of the semester made all of the difference. “Janna from Launch was on-site with us twice, both working with our classroom facilitator and working with the students,” Rory says. “She made sure everything was on track and everyone knew what they were doing. Those trainings were a must and really helped get everything started correctly.”

In addition, Rory says it’s essential to have a classroom facilitator who helps keep students on track. “It was really important for us to make sure our students were still engaged,” Rory says. “Our facilitator keeps them working, and on our own timeline.” Rory also suggests aligning Launch’s schedule with your own district’s schedule as best as possible. “Launch is a five-day program, but we’re a four-day district,” Rory says. “We went through and adjusted so our students didn’t have deadlines on Mondays.”

Last and perhaps most important, Rory says that communication is vital. “You’re going to have to have really good communication between the Launch teacher and your facilitating teacher,” Rory says. “You need to work on that relationship, especially in the beginning.”   

Walnut Grove at a Glance

K-12 Enrollment: 270
High School Population: 112
MASA District: Southwest
School Colors: Orange & Black
Mascot: Tigers
Fun Fact: Ken Gables, who was a pitcher for the Pittsburgh Pirates, was both born in and died in Walnut Grove