Texas Tech University

Lead Teacher Sees Evolution of Distance Learning Over 14 Years

By Leslie Cranford, Section Manager

A headshot of Travis Jaquess.

Travis Jaquess

A headshot of Travis Jaquess.

Travis Jaquess

During his years teaching for TTU K-12, lead social studies teacher Travis Jaquess has witnessed a lot of history.

"I have worked for TTU K-12 since the old days of stuffing envelopes when everything was paper-based correspondence classes," he recalled.

Distance learning by correspondence has evolved into a completely online program since then, and Jaquess has moved from a part-time instructor to full-time subject matter expert for social studies.

"I started full-time with TTU K-12 in the fall of 2019, but I grew to really love the heart of the institution when I was asked a few years ago to create a new version of the world history course from scratch," Jaquess said. "It was then that I learned about the high level of rigor and the emphasis on critical thinking skills that TTU K-12 includes in their courses. We worked together to produce a curriculum that I am very proud of, and that serves students well."

Being certified for Social Studies Composite means Jaquess is able to teach all of the social studies courses. He teaches economics, U.S. history, and world history semesters A and B. He also grades credit by exams for world geography and world history. He has taught world geography and human geography at the high school level in the traditional classroom and has also taught U.S. history at the college level.

A group of men and women sit behind connected tables and watch something at the front of a room.

Travis Jaquess, far right, attends the teacher orientation in the fall of 2019.

A group of men and women sit behind connected tables and watch something at the front of a room.

Travis Jaquess, far right, attends the teacher orientation in the fall of 2019.

"I was motivated to join TTU K-12 because of the exceptional resources they offer students who find themselves in unique educational circumstances," he said. "Rather than forcing students to flounder alone and gather resources from every nook and cranny they can find, TTU K-12 provides them with a robust and well-thought-out curriculum with high-level TEKS-based rigor that allows students to become college-ready when they finish the program. Not only does the Texas Tech curriculum course give them high-quality content in the subject area but also gives students soft skills such as time management, organizational skills, and the drive to become lifelong learners."

Jaquess leads his students to success by helping them be curious. He believes in learning through inquiry.

"My goal as an educator is to feed my student's curiosity," he said. "A mentor of mine once said, 'The old saying is true; you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. But you can salt the oats.' You can construct your class in such a way that they are thirsty for more. That is the kind of educator I strive to be."

There are several challenges to online teaching, but Jaquess believes TTU K-12 has put great mechanisms in place to help us overcome them.

"One of the challenges for students is the feeling of isolation in the online learning world. It feels less like a community, or less like a classroom, and more like a solitary confinement," he explained. "To help relieve this feeling, we include discussion boards in every course I teach so that students have a chance to engage with the material and with one another. I also hold virtual tutorial sessions in Blackboard Collaborate three times a week. These sessions allow students to talk with one another and talk out material and concepts that give them trouble."

He emphasized that these measures are even more essential now, in this time of COVID-19.

An older man faces the camera and stands to the left of his young son as both smile and the man wear an "I voted" pin and the boy hold the same pin in his right hand.

Travis Jaquess exercises his right to vote, with his son, Tyler.

An older man faces the camera and stands to the left of his young son as both smile and the man wear an "I voted" pin and the boy hold the same pin in his right hand.

Travis Jaquess exercises his right to vote, with his son, Tyler.

"These are especially important now that the whole world is experiencing isolation because of social distancing and coronavirus fears. They can safely log on to the Collaborate session and experience human interaction. This connection is an important part of learning, but especially important right now."

In his years of teaching, Jaquess says knowing when a student "gets it" is important to him.

"To me, the most rewarding part of being an educator is the light bulb moment - that moment when a student gets a difficult topic that they had been struggling with and their mental light bulb turns on. That is my favorite moment."

 

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