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To help her students cope with isolation and stress during the pandemic, a University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo music instructor has developed a series of videos to encourage the budding scholars to do their best both inside and outside the remote classroom.

Amy Horst’s inspirational videos are unlisted and accessible only to her students. In the videos, the empathetic instructor tries to motivate her students in whatever way she can, starting with letting them know she’s proud of them.

“Personal isolation is so hard to deal with. It’s so damaging, and it gets worse as time goes on,” said Horst. “What I’m trying to address is that people are pretty depressed, [especially when] we don’t get the same kinds of face-to-face interactions or smiles of encouragement.”

In an anonymous survey conducted last semester asking students to provide feedback on how well their educators made the shift to distance learning, one student said about Horst: “It was already an online class, but she provided very inspirational videos that were very helpful with motivating me to do my work not just in that class but in other classes as well.”

Amidst her uplifting messages which include phrases like “you’ve done so well,” “keep going,” and “you can do this,” Horst also points students into the direction of the UH Hilo Care Team, a multi-disciplinary group that receives referrals about students whose behavior raises significant concerns about their physical or emotional well-being.

Expanding horizons

Amy Horst
Amy Horst

Horst began teaching courses remotely in 2017 in an attempt to make music classes more accessible to a wider range of students. Over the years, Horst has had students from many different countries taking her class during the same semester.

“[Online teaching] was a different way of thinking about music because the performance-based model that I had studied when I was training to be an opera singer, and then that I had taught as a choral director, was all about bringing people into a certain location and presenting music together,” explained Horst. “But I really wanted to broaden my stroke, and I still have that goal.”

In addition to encouraging her students to excel during the pandemic, Horst also encourages faculty who are new to web-based learning to “not be afraid to let your students know how new you are at this.”

“If it’s your first time teaching online, make that a point of strength, rather than something you have to hide behind,” said Horst. “Being clear and being compassionate is a strength.”

Read the full story at UH Hilo Stories.

—By Kiaria Zoi Nakamura, a UH Hilo English student

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