By Evan Henerson
When the COVID-19 pandemic created widespread disruption throughout the LACCD, Gloria San Jose-Daims immediately recognized that many people would need a lot of help adjusting to a new learning landscape.
So the Valley College instructor stepped up, making herself available to help faculty and students alike. As a member of the Distance Education Committee (DEC), Daims became part of a seven- person mentoring team that helped instructors transition to teaching online. Through the Trio program, she also created and taught a series of workshops to help students identify stressors and build resilience.
More than 3,000 teachers needed training in distance learning and best online practices. Daims had previously been teaching distance learning face to face, but when the shutdown occurred, she began to hold one-on one mentoring sessions via phone and Zoom as well as teaching the four-week online courses that the district established to help instructors get online certification. In her work with the DE Committee, she was heavily involved in the discussions and planning of converting courses from in person to online.
“We were not prepared for COVID, so I was motivated to help and be active, and I was committed to supporting the students,” said Daims. “If we help the faculty, the students will benefit. It needed to be a win/win situation for faculty and students.”
“I really believe that it takes a village with active faculty to overcome this academic challenge,” she continued. “I wanted to be part of the solution to help the union, help the district, and help faculty and students to really move through this unexpected situation.”
Daims has taught child development both at Valley College and Mission College. She worked as an adjunct at five different campuses (“I used to be a freeway flyer”) before being hired full-time. A self-described “proud Latina” faculty member, she is the daughter of immigrants and the first of her seven siblings to attend college.
Daims began her own educational career at Santa Monica College and earned a Masters’ degree in child and family studies at CSUN. Daims was an undocumented student when she attended community college and says she can sympathize with the students and the challenges they face.
“I had to work really hard to maintain myself and also go to college,” she said. “I wish there had been more online classes at that time, but I think that was part of my motivation to really support students who converted to online learning.”
The coping and resiliency workshops she created –titled “Thriving in the New Normal” -- were part of Daims’ effort to put that motivation into practice.
“It was important to learn what the students were stressed by, things like immigration status, a lack of proper housing, unemployment, food insecurity and loss of family members,” said Daims. “These students were really affected by not being able to have social connections, especially dating opportunities. That was a big eye-opener for me. I felt the students would benefit from learning about coping and resilience, knowing they can succeed no matter what is happening outside.”
Daims is an active member of AFT 1521, taking a leadership role with the Contract Action Team (CAT) and recruiting other Valley College faculty to join the team as well.
“It was a wonderful experience, very powerful and inspirational,” she said. “I think the faculty members were really impressed to see how the union negotiated the contract and see the high numbers of participants attending the meetings. That was really powerful.”
On the home front, Daims and her husband, Richard, a former psychology instructor at CSU Dominguez Hills, take care of their “four-legged child” Maya, a rescue dog. And although she will probably sometimes teach online once the pandemic is behind us, Daims admits “I miss face-to-face classes.”
“I’ll love to get back to that once it’s safe to do it,” she said.