Social media keeps his students learning

English and Language Arts teacher Deonte Bridges shows off a collection of his Instagram posts designed to keep his eighth graders in touch.
English and Language Arts teacher Deonte Bridges shows off a collection of his Instagram posts designed to keep his eighth graders in touch.

Since the start of the fall term, Deonte Bridges has been online all day teaching English and Language Arts to eighth graders. But his work doesn’t end when everyone signs off. Bridges keeps the momentum going by jumping on Instagram and connecting with his 70 students at Atlanta Heights Charter School.

“For some students – and teachers – the idea of having a teacher on Instagram and focusing on skills might not be ideal, but so far, the students have enjoyed it,” said Bridges. “With eighth graders, I know social media is their thing. I wanted to make a personal connection to what they’re always on, and that’s Instagram.”

On his school page, Bridges posts review materials, notes and writing prompts that students have responded to with poems and songs. Sometimes the info includes news about community resources, such as where to find food pantries. He’s hosted talent shows, trivia contests and conversations about empowerment. He’s uploaded PowerPoints and skills tips. He also got rappers Killer Mike and T.I. to post announcements on the importance of reading and writing.

“This was the first time I paused to think about how best to reach them, and I know they’re always on their cell phones,” said Bridges. “They can see my posts as they’re scrolling through posts from their peers. It’s a great resource to keep them engaged.”

Principal Alisha Fisher said Bridges is the first teacher she’s seen who used Instagram to maintain communication.

“The response has been so positive,” she said. “Staying connected has certainly been a challenge, and they’re on Instagram anyway. It’s inspired some of our teachers to use more technology while we’re still remote.”

For Bridges, the most important aspect has been giving his students a safe way to keep in touch.

“Even if it’s virtual, it gives them a voice to talk about whatever they want, and during these times, they often don’t have a safe place to do that,” he said. “I do it because it shows I’ll go the extra mile. I always think about the type of teacher I’d like to have. I know my own creativity comes in part from all the amazing educators I had who poured their energy into me.”

Bridges' teaching is part of a passion for serving the Atlanta Heights Charter area. It comes from his deep connections to the community: He graduated as the valedictorian from Booker T. Washington High, just a few minutes from his job, and earned a degree from Morehouse.

“It’s even more meaningful for me to teach in the community that reared me and had so much to do with my growth and development,” he said. “I know the impact a teacher relationship can have, and I make a conscious effort to be that kind of educator every day.”

Information about Atlanta Heights Charter is online at nhaschools.com/schools/atlanta-heights-charter-school/en

SEND US YOUR STORIES. Each week we look at programs, projects and successful endeavors at area schools, from pre-K to grad school. To suggest a story, contact H.M. Cauley at hm_cauley@yahoo.com or 770-744-3042.

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