For someone who values movement as much as Pilates instructor Cara Metallo, the covid-19 pandemic has taught her a newfound appreciation for words.
Moving to an online platform for her classes forced Metallo, an O’Hara resident, to find “an eloquence and connect with students deeper in regards to goals with their health and wellness.”
Metallo will be one of more than 30 instructors who brings new skills and lessons remotely to students of Fox Chapel Area Adult Education’s (FCAAE) fall semester, which for the first time will be offered entirely online.
Registration is underway for Zoom-only courses that still will include art, finance, cooking, languages, history and exercise.
FCAAE, founded in 1963, is an outreach program of the Fox Chapel Area School District dedicated to providing enrichment classes to adults at a low tuition. One-night and multi-week classes are offered.
Sue Goodwin, FCAAE executive director, said creating the first online semester has been one of the greatest challenges of her life.
“Even though this fall marks my 17th year as the only employee of FCAAE, since March it feels like I started a brand new job,” Goodwin said.
“While it would have been much easier to close shop and wait until it was safe to hold in-person classes, our hope is that these online classes will create a sense of community and restore some semblance of normalcy and fun at a time when everything is so unsettled.”
The FCAAE board of directors was committed to making sure the online class software would be easy for every student no matter how tech-savvy they are, she said.
More than 30 live Zoom classes are offered, and registration is available with step-by-step instructions at fcaae.org.
“If you know how to open an email and click a link, you can join any FCAAE online class,” Goodwin said.
Of course, not all topics were able to transition for online instruction.
“Teaching methods for most in-person classes had to be reinvented, especially for our hands-on classes,” Goodwin said.
One of the most creative solutions was proposed by Chef Jon Holzer at Hartwood Restaurant, she said. His cooking classes are typically popular, as they combine watching him whip up a dish and recreating the skill in small groups.
Since group cooking isn’t possible during a pandemic, the chef will record a series of short videos showing him cooking each dish. Then students will try to replicate them from their own kitchens. The live part of class will include discussions with Holzer, where he will troubleshoot and answer questions.
For Metallo, the transition to remote teaching was, at first, daunting but has revealed a new depth to her instruction.
“My teaching style has had to dramatically change,” she said. “I have found that words are extremely important. It’s my job not just to help individuals with their health and wellness, it is my job to make sure that they are doing it safely and correctly.”
She said the Zoom platform allows interaction so she can observe her students to ensure they are moving properly.
“There have been so many things said about this period of time in history, but I have a tendency to look at the positive,” she said. “Changing my teaching platform has forced me to look deeper into movement and connect with individuals deeper.”
Goodwin said she initially hoped to offer a reduced course load of about a dozen classes this fall but was thrilled that so many instructors were willing to foray into the online adventure.
Only those that are impossible to offer online, such as swimming, basketball and pickleball, were left off the list for fall.
“The response has been heartwarming,” Goodwin said. “Students have written expressing their gratitude for this continuation of our fall semester. There are some who have told me that they are not interested in any sort of online experience right now, but my hope is that the word gets out that FCAAE’s online classes are as enjoyable as our in-person experience has always been.”
For more information, email [email protected]ae.org.
Fox Chapel Herald | Local | Valley News Dispatch