Joseph Montcalmo is the director of Academic Technology and Instructional Design for the Peabody Institute at Johns Hopkins. It's a job our current moment was made for: teaching remotely using technology.
"It's the nature of what I do—helping faculty teach online," says Montcalmo, who has been with Peabody since 2016. "When it was obvious that this [coronavirus outbreak] was serious, I got my team home as soon as possible and we set up all-day online office hours and started working."
Since being sheltered at home in West Towson with wife Rebekah, daughter Juliet, 8, son Luca, 6, and two big dogs, Montcalmo has lent his expertise to his children's education as well.
It's not a stretch, for whether his work helps a Conservatory professor convey the nuances of the cello through a computer lesson or his children find Baltimore on a map, teaching is teaching, tech is tech—it's Montcalmo's job to make sure they are in harmony with one another.
"I apply technology to teaching, [so] we have a lot of tech in the house," says Montcalmo, noting that it was a cool challenge to extend his knowledge to teaching at home. He also helped his father, Anthony, make the transition to teaching his Stevenson University international business classes online.
The Montcalmo family lives a few miles from Joseph's childhood home, where his mother and father—both in their late 70s—still reside. Joseph and Rebekah relocated to Baltimore from Philadelphia so their children could be close to their grandparents.
While keeping Peabody's classes—from prep through graduate studies—Zooming, Montcalmo and his wife take groceries to his parents. Joseph's mom, Bonnie, was a longtime staffer at the now-closed Greetings & Readings store in Cockeysville, where she was affectionately known as "the story lady."
There are also long walks with the kids and dogs, a Boxer mix named Sami and Dutch, a Rottweiler. The walks, Montcalmo says, are a good time to impart some life lessons after grownups (Rebekah is an adviser for an artificial intelligence health care startup) and kids have spent much of the day in front of monitors.
"It's nice to take a break from work and go outside in the middle of the day for a nature walk with my son. One day we picked up pine cones and dandelions for an art project," says Montcalmo, about making use of a trail that snakes behind the Towson YMCA.
"We've had conversations about what's going on," says Montcalmo of Luca. "He thinks it's neat that we've taken some of his lessons outside."
Two years' difference in grade school is a great difference, and Montcalmo's walks with daughter Juliet have been a bit more "in tune" with the news of the day, he says, though just as sweet. Those strolls have taken place on the deserted campus of Towson University.
"We've been open about it and have let them know they can talk to us if they're worried," he says of his children. "Juliet understands that we have to stay inside, and she misses her friends."
One thing Juliet and Luca are aware of, he says, is how people very much older than themselves are more at risk from the pandemic than those closer to their age.
"If it's scary for me to be thinking about my parents," Montcalmo says, "maybe it's scary for my kids to be thinking about their mom and dad."