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Teacher Spotlight: Building Virtual Bridges

Denver language teacher Piper Mik reflects on a year of remote learning.

By Kaley LaQuea

March 29, 2021

Remote Teaching Station

“I really treated that last week as though we were about to go on spring break,” admits Piper Mik (Colorado ‘19). “I was feeling burnt out, the kids were feeling burnt out. We had a celebration in my classroom to say goodbye to everyone. One of my kids was like, ‘I'll see you never again.’ And I said ‘You'll see me in three weeks.’ But I actually didn’t know if I'd ever see her again, which is a really crazy thing.”

Denver language educator Piper wishes she’d taught her students how self-advocacy looks when they wouldn’t be seeing teachers in person, and talked to them about what to expect with virtual learning. Like so many educators, she didn't know what to anticipate when everything became remote—but she adapted and rose to the challenge.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Piper spent the first few weeks of remote learning teaching her students how to use technology—ensuring they understood things like how to mute themselves and send an email.

“I've seen a lot of growth in my sixth graders with communicating virtually,” Piper says. “I think the hardest thing we've encountered in the virtual learning environment is building community, building relationships.”

At Piper’s school, the Denver Center for International Studies, students weren’t required to have their cameras on, presenting unique challenges for educators.

“The first day of school that we were in person, I didn't recognize a single student. So they’d come up and be like, ‘Hi, Miss Piper.’ And I'd be like, ‘Who are you?’ Those are the transition experiences I've encountered.”

“I think the hardest thing we've encountered in the virtual learning environment is building community, building relationships.”

Piper Mik

Colorado Corps Member 2019

Drawn to Education From a Young Age

Piper grew up listening to her mother, a teacher, advocate for educational equity. She majored in philosophy in college, focusing on the morality of human rights. Piper was drawn to Teach For America’s deep commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusiveness.

“I felt some sort of duty to work in the education system,” Piper says. “TFA’s one of those unique organizations that really centers itself around DEI [diversity, equity, and inclusion] and anti-racism. So I took interests that had been instilled in me since birth, my interests that developed in college, and the bigger picture of social justice. Teach For America really encompassed all of those.”

Like so many committed educators, Piper navigated virtual education for the first time this year. Over and over, she finds herself coming back to the concept of advocacy. As they phase back to classrooms in person, she hopes her students feel empowered to lead and inspire change.