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Friday, June 18, 2021

‘Back to school’ holding a new meaning

COVID-19 pushed most Los Angeles Community College District courses to strictly online. 

Now, with some classes set to return in the fall, professors and students are preparing to come back to the classroom.

Pierce College Theatre Professor Shaheen Vaaz said that teaching through Zoom has been “a mixed bag of emotions.”

“Acting without the whole body involved is really hard, and when you are not in the same room as your partner it is even more difficult,” Vaaz said. “It is tough to teach classes like theatre arts online. Getting students to warm up, break the ice and trust each other is nothing like it is in person.”

Since most classes have shifted online, Vaaz’s students are now starting to get the hang of the unique way of learning theatre without a partner.

“Students are figuring out how to look into those Zoom boxes and get the energy they need from their partner,” Vaaz said. “Theatre is all about the energy from each other and the energy from the audience, so being on Zoom has been tough.”

Alex Villalta, Associate Professor of Auto Service Technology at Pierce College felt the challenge to transitioning to Zoom classes.

“It was a huge change for everybody, and it’s been quite challenging,” Villalta said. “It has been a roller-coaster with so much uncertainty.”

Villalta is one of the few professors that has been able to be on the campus with his students this semester. He said that since COVID-19, they’ve had to implement safety protocols and that the students have been responsible while on campus.

 “We dropped class size down to half and then split that half between two different days,” Villalta said. “The reality is that if we maintain this same protocol, I think it is safe for us to come back. I have not had a problem yet with any students not following protocol. They are always maintaining their distance, wearing their gloves, their masks and their safety glasses.”

President Alexis Montevirgen said in a Zoom interview that with Los Angeles County entering yellow tier last week, Pierce’s goal is to operate 50% in person and 50% online. 

“What we’ve proven in this COVID situation is that almost anything can be done,” Montevirgen said. “I ultimately want to make sure that we do offer as many classes as we can.”

Janel Javier, an advanced Theatre Art student, said that she’s struggled with her acting classes being on Zoom.

“Theater is all about the exchange of energy,” Javier said. “Acting with someone who is not really there is extremely difficult, but I am making the best of it and learning as time goes on.” 

For students like Javier, returning to campus is something she’s looking forward to in the future.

 “I am so ready to go back,” Javier said. “As a theatre major, I miss being in person with my friends and cast.”

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