As the new school year began at Discovery Charter Elementary School, fifth-grade teacher Scot De Pedro resorted to skills he used while working at SeaWorld years ago to prepare for distance learning.
“We’ve never done this before,” he said while sitting behind two laptops. “We’re trailblazers and these first few weeks is all about problem-solving.”
Discovery Charter and the Chula Vista Elementary School District started their school year Aug. 31.
One of the biggest problems facing the energetic teacher: That ever-so-important face-to-face time with students. It’s important for the children. It’s important for him, too.
“As a teacher, I need that social/emotional. I need that connection,” said De Pedro.
Instead of staring at a grid filled with digitized, puffy fifth-grade faces, De Pedro got out a black permanent marker and drew caricatures of the 52 students he’ll have this year. He stood them up at each desk in his classroom.
“They’re all smiling. They’re all looking right at me. They’re all paying attention,” said De Pedro. "I was just sitting there thinking to myself, ‘I don’t want to be in a classroom that doesn’t have the kids in it.' It’s like having a comfort food.”
Before becoming a teacher, De Pedro said he worked as a caricature artist at SeaWorld San Diego.
“Ended up becoming the manager of all the art concessions there.”
He said he probably drew tens of thousands of caricatures during his six years there.
De Pedro said he’ll give each student their picture as soon as they return to school in person.