How “distant” are you during distant learning?

Students and teachers check in from, virtually, anywhere–and a pet is now a “must have” school supply.


Courtesy of Sierra Rossman

Within the arrow, Jessica Young holds up her school planner and calculator. This is representing how many students are participating in distance learning: distantly!

Winter blues may have us dreaming of doing our school work by the ocean, on a remote Florida beach, with nothing but blue sky and white sand. Even though we have the freedom and ability to travel and learn (at least until the second semester), is this the right time and right choice for you?

Virtual learning via our personal devices has impacted many aspects of day-to-day learning. The how, what, when, and especially– where! 

Keri Young’s make shift work station at her rental unit in Smith Mountain Lake Virginia. (Courtesy of Keri Young)

Many are traveling to new, and sometimes exotic, destinations to participate in their typical work and school day activities. People are taking the term “distance” from distance learning to a whole new level.

Linganore parent Keri Young, who has been traveling for the past two months continuing her weekly work tasks from various locations, is just one example.

“I started out taking weekly trips, Thursday to Sunday, to Easton, Maryland to take care of my mom in early October. I took my laptop and set up a work station at her kitchen table. By December first, I had set up a home care system at her house and started my bi-weekly trips, Sunday to Sunday, to Smith Mountain Lake, Virginia doing the same work set up,” said Young. 

Young enjoys the flexibility of working from wherever she needs, especially during the time she had to travel to take care of her mom. She prefers to work at the lake as she has a nice view and few distractions.

Students are also taking their work on the road. Junior Austin May went on a golfing trip for four days to Las Vegas, Nevada.

“It was nice being able to go places and do school work, especially with only having two classes a day. I am able to focus more on the classes that I have, and, once I am done, I get to do a lot more with the rest of my day. All you really need is WiFi. That you can even get from some restaurants or public locations,” said May. 

Would you want to work away from home?


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Senior Jordan Webb also enjoyed the availability of public WiFi service during online learning. She and some friends went to the local Starbucks where they were able to use the restaurant WiFi and do their work.

“I really enjoy going to places like Starbucks, or just in my car during a trip, to do my schoolwork or homework. It is a nice change of scenery and keeps me relaxed so that I actually take breaks from school during the day. I always feel much more productive afterwards, too, because I am getting both school and social activities done,” said Webb.

Junior Mike Gugliemone went to Florida for two days and Delaware for a day, all for his travel lacrosse team. 

“I liked learning from a new location because it was calming to be in a different scenery than the rooms in my house that I normally do my school work from.  It was easy to de-stress from school by playing during my off-class time. I also enjoyed being able to participate in my school work with the rest of my class instead of having to make-up work from being away,” said Gugliemone

Successful Scenery and Furry Friends? 

Although traveling in itself is exciting, the Gugliemone family recently adopted a puppy during this virtual learning time, which Gugliemone also attributes to his success. 

Mike Gugliemone is sitting and working on his schoolwork with his dog. (courtesy of Mike Gugliemone)

“Getting a puppy has helped with my success in my school work. She will come and lay next to me or on my lap, keeping me relaxed and off of my phone. There are times when I have to take her outside for a walk which is good for both of us,” said Gugliemone.

Senior Adam Liston is moving to Minnesota in the summer of 2021 and has been participating in virtual learning partly from his friend’s house and partly from a rental in Minnesota. He keeps his dog Remy with him when he goes to Minnesota. 

“Doing work at Scott’s house has been pretty fun overall, but there has been a lot of distractions, since we don’t have the same schedule. Being away from family has also made it harder to stay focused. I miss seeing Remy when I am at Scott’s because I feel that he has always helped to relieve some of the stress of my schoolwork,” said Liston

Young has also sped up her family’s moving plans due to the virus, which was part of the reason that she now continues to travel bi-weekly to Smith Mountain Lake. Along with traditional travel plans, Young also couldn’t leave her furry friends at home. 

“My family has been planning on moving to Smith Mountain Lake Virginia for the past six years. Since the pandemic has gotten worse, I am at high risk. Due to there being fewer cases at the lake, and a few other reasons, I travel back and forth. I enjoy the company of my small dog, Molly, as I travel often by myself and enjoy taking her for walks during my work day breaks,” said Young.

A study done by Nationwide Pet Insurance in partnership with the Human-Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) found that 90% of employees in pet-friendly workplaces feel highly connected to their company’s mission, are fully engaged with their work, and are willing to recommend their employer to others.

Working environment wonders

There are many different environments to learn in. During in-person schooling, students work in an environment with their teachers, classmates, and friends. Although it is not the same, Sophomore Sarah Webb, Jordan Webb’s younger sister, does school often from the same location as her sister.

“It’s definitely easier having my sisters around to help me with schoolwork. Since Jordan has taken a bunch of the higher level classes that I am in, it’s a lot less stressful knowing that if I need help I can ask her if I have trouble getting in touch with my teacher or classmates. I still do miss being in school to see my teachers and classmates in person, but I’m definitely fortunate to have my sisters as it is similar to having my classmates there and great resources,” said Sarah Webb.  

Sophomore Bree Heister often does school in the same location as her older sister Senior Carolina Heister. 

“Having virtual classes at home with my sister has definitely had its pros and cons. It’s been difficult because sometimes I can hear her classes and will get distracted or lose focus because of it, but it’s also been nice because after our classes are done she can help me with homework or we can hang out right away,” said Bree Heister. 

Rental Revival

Rental agent and resort store employee at Bernard’s Landing  in Smith Mountain Lake, Laurie Barbour, has seen the impact of the pandemic on rental sales.

“We had a very good year this year with our rental sales despite COVID. We were completely booked solid over the summer and even into October and November, which I assume was partly due to many being able to work from home,” said Barbour.

Another rental agent from that location, Carol Leggett, has seen the same trend in her sales. Leggett has been selling and renting properties for 35years. Last year she sold around three million. This year she sold almost double that figure.

“2020 has been the best year that we have ever had for rental sales. Families have come here just to enjoy the lake and stay to themselves even before the pandemic. Now that the pandemic is here, many others, in addition to the regulars that rent every year, have come interested in renting,” said Leggett.