Geography professor brings comfort to students despite campus closure

With classes transitioning online on short notice, geography professor Lisa Chaddock makes the best out of the situation

Lisa Chaddock in her garden

Geography professor Lisa Chaddock uses her garden as a teaching area and tool for her students through Zoom. Photo by Lisa Chaddock

Elisabeth Vermeulen, Staff Writer

Editor’s note: This is the third in an occasional series of journal entries produced by City Times staff highlighting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on members of our community.

Lisa Chaddock has been teaching physical geography at San Diego City College for 14 years. Throughout all her years of teaching, she has never experienced an outbreak such as COVID-19.

“Viruses evolve, I am a geographer so I’m watching the maps at Johns Hopkins,” Chaddock said in an interview video call. “We’re on a pretty sad trajectory right now. It will get worse before it gets better — but it will get better.”

Chaddock and faculty across campus were given one week to transition two weeks worth of classwork onto Canvas and learning websites such as Pearson and McGraw-Hill Connect. This was later extended through the remainder of spring and summer semester.

With the short notice of courses transitioning online, Chaddock turned to Twitter to express the challenges she faced. 

Chaddock learned how to teach on Canvas and also how to hold Zoom conferences by taking classes “continuously, day after day” in order to adapt to the new change of teaching.

Chaddock home studio
In order for students to get a clear view of professor Lisa Chaddock teaching through Zoom, she uses professional lighting. Lisa Chaddock photo

With the help of her husband, who is a photographer, she is equipped with professional lighting to ensure that her students can see her clearly during online meetings.

Chaddock is doing the best she can to alleviate any stress caused during this time. She managed to link her textbook with Canvas, since a majority of her students relied on the library textbook. 

“I made the choice to get together with the publishers and link my classes,” Chaddock said. “That way, my students get a free online textbook and they get access to all the lesson plans that are already there.”

Although she is figuring out new things each day, she still has concerns. She is most worried about her lab courses.

“My labs are very experiential,” Chaddock said. “We go out in the field, we turn over rocks and look at plants and watch birds and see the various habitats and they can’t do that the same way. But I’m trying to create ways where they go outside their own home and just look.” 

During her meetings online with students, she virtually takes them to her garden and teaches them outdoors.

She encourages her students to utilize online sources to complete their work without having to go outside, such as the Live Hummingbird Feeder Cam.


Chaddock also works with the Audubon Society Club on campus, which she introduced to City College in 2014. The club still continues to meet Fridays online.

“We meet on Zoom because I don’t want them to lose that connection,” Chaddock said.

Comfort Bear and Lisa Chaddock
Professor Lisa Chaddock uses Comfort Bear during online class meetings to calm students through everything that is going on. Lisa Chaddock photo

In order to bring some ease to her students with the craziness going on, she introduced a friend of hers to her students. Comfort Bear has been used in the past as an outlet for students in need of a good cry during breakdowns in her office.

“So Comfort Bear is online now,” Chaddock said.

She brings him on camera during class meetings just to say “hello” and shine some light into students’ days. 

“I decided that this could be stressing a lot of people out and I wanted to be able to do Comfort Bear,” Chaddock said.

Chaddock remains optimistic and hopeful throughout the situation. 

“Keep an open mind. This is a big opportunity for all of us to maybe enter a new paradigm of education,” Chaddock said.

Do you have a unique story to share about how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted your life? Let us know on social media @SDCityTimes or leave a comment below.