East Palo Alto PE teacher takes distance learning to new heights


PALO ALTO, Calif. (KRON) – Stephen Ashford, a remarkable PE teacher at East Palo Alto Charter School, is going above and beyond making virtual learning the new normal for his students. 

“We just gotta keep on getting creative, I think that’s the key for all teachers. This is the perfect time to get as creative as you can and to reach your kids.”

Ashford adds, “In the beginning it was just trying to keep the kids attention. The meeting that we had last year we had it on a Thursday and it’s like alright Monday we’re not gonna have no school so teachers were just scrambling to just find things they can do.”.

Ashford took it upon himself to take over the school’s Instagram page, reaching out to over 200 celebrities and athletes asking them to record a personalized message for his students. 

“I got a whole bunch of videos back From like Ice Cube, Jermaine Dupree, Nick Bosa… Steve Kerr.” 

His creativity doesn’t stop there, “I was just thinking this year what can I do to make our activities more fun so I came up with the idea of coming up with a cartoon.”

Ashford adds, “When I do my lessons I do the planks with them I do the wall sits with them I do the pushups and the sit ups just to show them I’m doing them with him I mean it’s really important for kids to get exercise.”

Ashford says one word to sum up the year, “Emotional this has been the hardest year I’ve ever had of teaching. There’s so many downs but then you have those up moments where you have those kids that are excelling in the distance learning and just hearing kids excited about being in your class those are the highlights.”

While the coronavirus has brought many struggles, he hopes that he can put a smile on his students’ face, even if it’s for a short period of their day. 

“I want them to have fun so when they turn the computer off they’re like,  ‘I had a fun time with Mr. Steve.’”

Adding to Ashford’s creativity, he recently sat down with his uncle to write a book about his experience this year.

Adventures with Mr. Steve

“The book is about everything I went through at my school  from shutting down, to getting celebrities, to everything that really happened.” 

Ashford  continues,”“The book leads on to the George Floyd situation. A lot of our kids don’t know ya know. They’re looking at the news and they’re  seeing protests, they’re seeing people crying and they don’t really know how to process this and they’re still not in school.  It’s really a tough year so as educators and myself as an African American, I need to do everything in my power to assure the kids that they’re gonna be okay. I want them to know when they vote when they’re older they can be the ones that are gonna change what’s going on in the world right now.” 

Mr. Steve has worked at East Palo Alto Charter School for over twenty years and continues to brighten his students world each and everyday. 

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