Educator Starts Business to Help Families with Remote Learning. By Hadley Barndollar
PORTSMOUTH – Britt Canner taught at schools in Rye, Barrington, Portsmouth and Puerto Rico before landing her “dream job” with the Council on International Educational Exchange, where she helped high school students craft study abroad plans.
And then COVID-19 hit, and in March, she lost her job.
Eager to develop a “side hustle” during unemployment, Canner has since launched a new business model intended to help families navigate online schooling and home school during these unprecedented times.
She calls herself an alternative education consultant, “who also does so much more.” Offering guidance for families who feel returning to a brick-and-mortar school in the fall isn’t right for them, her services include family consults, providing remote support like daily check-ins and virtual morning meetings, and pairing home school “pods” with teachers who may not be returning to school buildings. She also has experience in curriculum building, and researching various online schooling models.
“I’m just trying to get creative in a virtual word,” said Canner, 34, who lives in Portsmouth. “I think homeschooling and online schooling are going to be pretty popular going forward until there is a cure for this because families are scared.”
This week, the New York Times reported parents around the country – who can afford to do so – are organizing “pandemic pods” or “nano-schools” for the fall, where a small group of students learn together remotely with the help of a hired teacher or tutor. According to the Los Angeles Times, with most schools in California closed for the foreseeable future, families are “rushing to hire tutors and teachers to augment distance learning with children individually or in small groups.”
On the Seacoast, in the Portsmouth School District, for example, the district is planning to provide a remote option for families if they aren’t comfortable sending their children back to school buildings.
Canner said she’s had many families reach out since she started advertising her website on social media this month.
“I have never seen so many families interested in this. It’s overwhelming,” she said. “The families that have reached out to me, they’re really nervous about having their kids be in a school with the potential of this virus to spread. There’s so much unknown, so families are really trying to have a backup plan until they know the exact plan.”
Canner has a master’s degree in teaching from Plymouth State University, and taught at Rye Elementary School, Barrington Elementary School, a private school in Puerto Rico, and New Franklin Elementary School in Portsmouth.
She’d been working for CIEE for one year, blending her passions of “travel, new experiences and seeing the world” as an international studies adviser, when she was laid off.
“It was pretty devastating because it just felt like I’d found my footing and it was an amazing company,” Canner said.
She pivoted when a family she knew in Puerto Rico contacted her about virtual tutoring, hiring her to support their kids.
Canner said teachers returning to school in the fall are “risking their lives essentially. I’m worried for them very much so. They are heroes.”
For the parents’ who decide their kids won’t go back to school buildings, Canner said, “it’s really tough (in a virtual setting) to replicate a morning meeting, that kind of responsive interaction and socializing, especially with young kids in those developmental years.”
That’s where her services come in. She also hopes to help parents who are working full-time navigate the many options of online schooling. The “on-boarding process,” she said, can be a lot for parents whose work days are the same hours as a school day.
“I’m really just trying to meet their needs and support as best I can in a remote setting,” Canner said.
For every family that wants that remote support in virtual learning, there are families who want to hire a home school teacher, she said. For that reason, Canner has been working to build a network of teachers she knows who might be interested in those opportunities.
In New Hampshire, parents need to notify their intent to home school only one time per child and within five business days of starting the program. The letter must be filed with the local school administrative unit district office, a private school that offers the service, or the state Department of Education.
From Seacoast Online