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Overcoming Cancer in a Connected World

My Story: Beth Carter from LCPS-TV on Vimeo.

Growing up, we all had a favorite teacher. It may have been an impassioned English teacher keen on Shakespeare and Tolkien or perhaps a Science teacher with an over-the-top flair for dramatic experiments. As teachers, they inspired and challenged us. As memories, they continue to travel with us throughout life, still often influencing our behavior. For me that memory is Mr. Meredith, of AP English. His passion for teaching helped shape my own approach as an English teacher years later and continues to live on, transferred to my former students who now teach others.

Beth Carter, of Seneca Ridge Middle School in Loudoun County, Virginia, is that kind of teacher. Diagnosed with breast cancer in the fall of 2014, Beth faced the real fear of infection from others and had to reduce contact with the outside world. But keeping a dedicated teacher from teaching is like keeping the sun out of the sky, an impossible task. Driven by her passion for teaching, and with a little help from Cisco, she soon found a way to keep doing what she does best – empowering others.

Beth’s husband, Gregg, is one of our Systems Engineers at Cisco. He decided to reach out to co-workers for help. Their diagnosis was to provide connectivity to enable Beth to teach her students from the comfort of her home. Cisco gladly provided a TelePresence EX90 system for use in her house, and a TelePresence SX20 Quick Set (hooked to a Promethean Board) for her classroom. The system streamlines her desktop at home so she can move fluidly from individual work, to video calls, to problem solving over shared documents. This lets Beth talk to her students face-to-face in real-time to solve math problems. Best of all, Beth’s students are learning much more from her than just math. They are learning how to face their challenges head-on. “I am able to teach lessons to my students as if I was actually in the classroom,” she said. “You have no idea how important that is to me as a teacher to know that during my battle with breast cancer I can stay connected to my kids.”

While distance learning technologies excel at bringing us together, they can also have psychological benefits. As Beth’s situation shows, real-time video enabled learning can let homebound students and teachers be a productive part of any class; enjoying social interaction and increasing their sense of belonging to a community. I would have benefited greatly from that as a teenager when homebound, post appendicitis. During that time another teacher, Mr. Ridgely, traveled to visit me. That’s something I’ll never forget. But imagine if I could have joined his class for those two lonely weeks instead, learning from home using TelePresence? I might be a best-selling author today. For those who face long-term illness, video can be the lifeline that keeps them focused and buoys their spirits until they can physically return to school. Students in the classroom can also benefit by developing a greater sense of compassion and understanding for others and the life changing situations they face.

Thanks to Cisco’s TelePresence technologies, Beth is continuing to inspire adults around her while helping build a positive future for the youth of Loudoun County, Virginia. You can listen to Beth’s story in her own words at and learn more about connectivity at Cisco Connected Learning.

To see how TelePresence can benefit your students and staff, check out:

TelePresence for K-12 Education

TelePresence for Higher Education

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Stay Connected!

As Hurricane Isaac is about to make landfall on the Gulf Coast of the United States, I can’t stop thinking about Hurricane Andrew, who hit my hometown in Miami, Florida back on August 24, 1992.  Hurricane Andrew, the third costliest hurricane, costing over $26 billion, hit our neighboring city of Homestead, Florida the hardest.

The morning of August 24th, around 3am, I will always remember very clearly.  The winds were howling so loud it woke me up.  The sky was bloody red.  It looked and sounded like a really horrible scary movie.  To this day, I can never watch horror movies.

The days that followed were some of the toughest I had experienced.  My colleague Mark Rogers’ put it well in his blog he shared “Conditions were terrible”.  Looking at the devastation of Hurricane Andrew to our State, our neighbors, our home, what was in front of me was pure sadness.  After many, many weeks, school was able to resume in trailers.  On the first day back, not all of my friends returned.  I heard some decided to move away permanently while others were not ready to return.  I remembered my homeroom teacher telling us to stay connected. Read More »

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