ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – This month’s recipient of the Golden Apple Award sponsored by Olthof Funeral Home is Tobi Thornton of Riverside Elementary School.

Tobi teaches Pre-K and is entering her 25 year teaching. She says this is her 8th year teaching Pre-K.

Tobi is a southern tier native and has spent a lot of time in Elmira. She earned her bachelors and Masters at Elmira College.

During the pandemic, learning is being done remotely for many students across the country. At Riverside Elementary they were looking for a full time virtual teacher and Tobi took the opportunity and ran with it.

“This year, they said hey we need a virtual teacher and I was like, I’ll do it I wanted the challenge,” Tobi said.

The position came with new challenges for Tobi.

“It is it is a challenge because it makes me use my mind a lot differently than when I’m with kids live there’s a lot of pre planning that goes into teaching in general. But when you are doing something, especially remotely, it is a lot more thinking and you have to think of different things to do with kids that you maybe would do differently when you have them live in the classroom.” Tobi said. When I have them live I feel like I moved them a lot like they’re very little and I’m like nope guys come on over here let’s go over here, virtually there’s there isn’t that component. So you have to think a little bit differently.”

Tobi said she has always been a creative person and utilizes that in her teaching even as a virtual teacher. She has even made home-made multiple puppets and uses her ukulele to sing songs.

“I try to always make opportunities for them to actually get up and move so I’ll change it up a lot instead of doing just a regular letter drill. We’ll sing a song about the letters or we’ll do some movement activities with them so in trying to keep in mind but they, in order to engage they need to be active. They need to be actually doing something.” Tobi said.

Another important aspect of making sure her students are successful is working alongside the parents.

“I also think virtual learning Is like a team sport so I team up with the parents, and we kind of have this pact that we’re going to work together to make this work, make virtual teaching successful and have their kids grow and learn,” Tobi said.

Tobi’s gives her advice to young teachers who are just starting out.

“What you learned in college might not actually match up to your expectations. So, or what is presented to you so I think you have to be patient with yourself.” Thornton said. “And, you know, be in the moment and never stop learning and just embrace where you are, and never stop learning.”