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Point Pleasant Borough teacher finds students are stepping up, leaning in on distance learning

By Nick Gattuso, Point Pleasant Borough High School

We are all in a very unique and difficult situation, but out of the confusion and hardship my high school students have stepped up (and to use a term that I hear over and over again from our nation’s leaders – they are leaning in) and have continued the process of learning and communicating with me. Along the way, they have learned some important lessons such as: 

  • Increased responsibility: My students are given a detailed assignment with a strict deadline and grading criteria and it is up to them to schedule the time to do it! This increased scheduling and responsibility of juggling all their assignments and tests in a world where they now have control of their schedule very much mirrors the life the rest of us are  living in, as well: a work-at-home society.  Students no longer have to worry about a lack of sleep, or living by a bell schedule,  or whether they prefer to take the test at night or during the day; it is up to them! They have the control and I can see submissions of the assignments coming in at all times of the day: midday, midnight, etc.  If they are like my 21 year-old son, a recent college graduate, they prefer to work at night when most of us are sleeping and now that is perfectly fine!  No more bells!  No more sleeping in class, etc.! They have a deadline to get the work done and if they do not do it – it is on them; just like in the real-world and very similar to college, which most of them will be attending in a few short months.


  • Increased One on One Instruction: One great benefit or byproduct of remote learning is that I have  found I have much more time to go over each student’s answers to an assignment; I can directly detail and go over each piece of the problem set without having to worry about other things that would be going on in the classroom (e.g., students asking to go the bathroom, etc.), so the learning is more direct and pointed. Let me give you an example, here is an email interaction between me and Kathryn, one of my Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science (CS) students:

Here is an email message with my response to Kathryn’s answer (notice how detailed I can be since we are now not limited by the time)

Hi Kathryn,

Hope all is well..

good job some problems.. though 

you would probably have scored a 5 or 6 (out of the 9).. some easy corrections

please see below.. and let me know  you  understand the fixes

(going to give 100 for this.. but I want you to get all 9 points in future..)

new assignment tomorrow night .. i will contact you via email

let others know about the assignment.. and stay safe..

talk to you tomorrow mr. g



no need to make instance vars static unless

the vars need to be used by all objects .. class level vars

that is not what is being done here

so your instance vars

should be:


private int min;

private  int count;

private  int days;

private int act;

(2) you do not have a constructor..

almost always when writing a class need a constructor

such as:

 public StepTracker(int goal)
  min = goal;
  count = 0;
  days = 0;
  act = 0;


averageSteps method missing some stuff:

  1. a) returns a double
  2. b) can not div by zero — so make sure not going to.
    c) x must be a double
    d) and the div of two ints count/days are both ints
     so you would lose precision.. you need to cast one of the operands a double

public double averageSteps(){

     if (days == 0) return 0.0;

     double x= (double)count/days;

      return x;}


And here is Kathryn’s email message back with her response (11 minutes later):

Got it, thanks! 


I am very proud and encouraged by how my students are showing responsibility and how they are stepping up and leaning in.  They are learning important life lessons that will only make them stronger and more well-rounded!


Nick Gattuso is a computer science teacher at Point Pleasant Borough High School. He and his students were featured on NJEA’s Classroom Closeup, NJ in 2017 for their Panther Assisted Learning Software, which creates software programs to benefit special education students. Watch their story here