When the COVID-19 pandemic brought instruction in classrooms to a halt this spring, many educators had to approach their craft in ways they had probably never imagined. For Gala Hughley G’20, this meant designing and recording middle school mathematics lessons for WCNY’s TV Classroom. A partnership between WCNY and the Syracuse city and area school districts, TV Classroom put public school lessons on television and made content accessible even for those students who may not have had access to technology or wi-fi.
For 3 years Hughley has been a mathematics teacher in the Syracuse City School District for grades 6–8 at Brighton Academy, and is a member of the school’s instructional leadership team. She says she was happy to be asked by the district to participate in the TV Classroom project, as she saw the need to reach more students remotely. “I would estimate that about 40% of our students are without reliable technology or an internet connection.” Hughley adds that “some students are also without a stable home environment conducive to learning, but this is a step in the right direction to make sure the material is accessible.”
WCNY TV Classroom continued in the fall for grades K-5, but online lessons for grades 6–12 content areas are being developed and recorded in preparation for a hybrid school model. Hughley has again answered the call, and is a demonstration teacher for grades 6–8 mathematics instruction, recording interactive lessons used by teachers across the district. “I do feel like I’m playing a pretty important role in what’s happening,” she says, “and that keeps me going.”
Hughley also spent her summer developing and sharing online content. After a two-week planning period, Hughley taught six weeks of virtual summer school and facilitated grades 6–8 mathematics instruction across the district, utilizing some of the TV Classroom videos from the spring. The students were required to be online from 9 a.m.–1 p.m. every day, and that amount of screen time required a lot of planning to keep the content engaging. “It was an intense model,” she says, “but the kids really loved it, and I had great participation. At that age, kids need the structure.”
A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Hughley completed her undergraduate work in middle childhood education with concentrations in mathematics and ELA at Xavier University. She came to Syracuse University through the Urban Teaching Fellows program, a partnership between the Syracuse City School District and the School of Education designed to recruit and retain outstanding teachers of color to the district. Hughley completed a M.S. in Teaching and Curriculum with a focus in mathematics while teaching full time.
Hughley also works as a professional model in commercial and print campaigns. In another 2 years, when her contract with the Urban Teaching Fellows program is fulfilled, she may explore a move to the New York City area to teach and continue her modeling career.