We are doing school like never before; remote or online learning has been required because of the current pandemic and so many of us have had to shift our lives in ways we never planned. There is a lot of loss for students, teachers, parents, and community members but there are also amazing educators rising to the challenge put before them to serve their students and their families well.
“This is the strangest time ever as a wife, mom, and a teacher for sure. I am going above and beyond because I am inspired by the people around me. We all walked out of school not knowing we would not be back and got life changing news but it is awesome to be a part of this community because everyone is willing to dive in for our kids and each other,” Mrs. Briddick, a resource teacher at CE Miller Elementary summed up the community’s response to the current Covid-19 crisis.
The need for school districts around the country to take learning to a remote classroom has weighed heavily on many but the educators in CUSD 201 are showing up and going above and beyond to help their students and their families during this difficult time. “We have a mutual understanding that this is tough and we are being patient with each other,” shared Mrs. Briddick.. Mrs. Edmeier, a resource teacher at JT Manning noted “It was utterly amazing to see our staff troubleshoot, consult, collaborate, and cheer each other on as we switched to remote learning overnight. I’m blessed to be apart of our Manning School community.” Mrs. Reilly, a resource teacher at CE Miller Elementary School shared, “it is a truly remarkable partnership between home and school and parents are meeting us more than half way. I have doing this for a long time and this partnership has never been more important, powerful, needed, or stronger.” She is so proud of her students and how they are learning and continuing their work online. It is a team effort as she also has phone numbers of not only parents but Aunts and Uncles. “Mr. Wyller’s (the principal at Miller Elementary School) leadership has just been great and this is not just one person. It is team effort and our team is large,” Mrs. Reilly shared.
The transition to online learning meant a huge learning curve and required so much patience and grit for everyone involved. Mrs. Hatteberg teaches First Grade at CE Miller Elementary School and although the beginning of remote learning was tough for everyone she is grateful to be more comfortable with the platforms now, “I’ve never had a You Tube Channel or anything and we are all learning to challenge ourselves to explore new to us technology so we can teach our students and stay on track with state standards.” She sees one of the keys in teaching this way is to “see” her students consistently and is hosting zoom class meetings and checking in with her individual students, “it is really important I record video lessons as well so students can see me and on our zoom calls they can just share they lost a tooth or anything going on with them right now.” Mrs. Hatteberg aims to help many parents who are trying to work from home and help their children with remote learning by recording directions so that her students can listen and not require a parent to read every instruction. Mrs. LeBeda, a Fifth Grade Teacher at Manning said “I tried to vary the assignments from videos, to writing choice boards, to interactive websites to help them maintain their skills.” The variety is necessary to keep students engaged.
The teachers and staff are being innovative and creative in reaching their students even when they cannot physically be with them. Mr. Ritz, a Fourth Grade Teacher at CE Miller is also hosting small group zooms in order to facilitate a better way to check in with individual students, “this allows me to have a more personal check in and offer instruction for the students.” Mr. Ritz also realizes the importance of fun and during their large group zooms they are hosting “crazy hat day” and “bring your stuffed animal day” as well as using platforms like Google Classrooms that students were already familiar with and allowing them to be more interactive with it. Mrs. Hatteberg also values having zoom classes to “see” her students and for them to feel more connected to one another, “The students love it and I love it too because I miss them and love seeing them.” Mrs. Edmeier also sees a huge value in “seeing” her student even through a screen, “It is such a privilege when families welcome me into their homes. I have now seen/met every toy, family member, pet, and house of each one of students.”
Parents are grateful for the partnership with educators now more than ever. Dana Hajek, a parent of two students at Manning said, “I truly appreciate Mr Funchess’ adaptiveness during this time of remote learning. When I reached out letting him know my student needed to do things a little differently to be successful, he personally called me to walk me through how to present the topic in a way that my student would gain the most. When we opened up the lessons the following day, it was clear Mr Funchess took what I said and molded a lesson with my concerns in mind. He has taken all different learners into account and has presented the topics in multiple ways to hopefully engage all students. I appreciate his individualized approach during this time. It has helped keep my science loving student engaged and excited to learn.” “I have tried to keep the kids engaged with fun and thought-provoking assignments like making cup phones, discovering how and why rainbows form, learning a foreign language, developing their own business plan, as well as creating a solar oven. “I try to leave all assignments open so that students can use their creativity ability,” said Mr. Funchess, a 4th Grade teachers at Manning.
This social isolation is so hard on all of us and teachers are trying to maintain the meaningful social connections and learning even through remote learning. Educators are noticing these social connections are more vital than ever and are creatively attending to these needs in their students within so many limitations. Mrs. Edmeier knows this virtual face to face is crucial, “the looks on my students’ faces in those first few moments when a zoom call begins are absolutely priceless. I am thankful that we have the ability to “see” and connect with each other on a daily basis.” Mrs. Frye, a 4th Grade Teacher at CE Miller hosted a virtual scavenger hunt to help students become familiar with the sites and logging in to the platforms they are using but she found the activity was more needed and meaningful o the students than she first thought. “Students accessed each site to discover a word in a sentence and at the end they were able to solve the scavenger hunt by completing the sentence: Even though we miss each other we will us the remote learning to learn and spend time with each other because we are a team who takes care of each other.”
After the activity the students had to record themselves saying the sentence and share that video. A student messaged her saying “Mrs. Frye- thank you. I really needed that sentence today.” She also took time to ask questions like ‘how can we build a support team for other families and each other?’ and ‘how can we help our families and ask for help right now?’ During the first few weeks there were so many emotions and loss that students were dealing with and many teachers are hosting small group zoom calls in order to check in. Many students were wanting these virtual interactions because they just needed the “extended family” as Mrs. Fyre notes. “If a student does not make it to a call other students would check in on them and I have never seen our 4th graders collaborating so much.” “It was beautiful. Even though we are away from each other I have seen this make them more of a family’,” Mrs. Frye shared.
We think of school as primarily a place for academic learning but as everyone is not aware in new ways it is a vital place of emotional and social learning and interaction as well. Mrs. Frye agrees “academics are so important but for me the number one thing is the relationship with my students. She got emotional sharing, “they are really learning perseverance and grit. It has been so inspiring!” The personal involvement of the educators in our district has helped families adjust to this difficult time. Mrs. Frye personally greeted and sang to her students holding a board she made at supply pick up. Students beemed when they saw their teacher. She told them “It is ok if you did not finish all of your work if you were helping your family. We are sending virtual hugs to each other.” The end of the year did not go as planned but teachers and parents are working together to help students succeed and feel celebrated.
Mrs. Roth, a kindergartner teacher at Manning went to every one of her student’s homes to give them a gift and congratulate them on moving to 1st grade. Leaders of the Westmont Junior High’s PTO; Liz Rathburn, Courtney Templeton, and Maren Graham hand delivered gowns and awards to each and every 8th Grade graduate’s home and took pictures to use for their virtual graduation.
An 8th grade student Hayden Boss even brought along her trumpet and played Pomp and Circumstance in the front yards of her fellow graduates. This is no doubt a trying time but seeing the ways the people of CUSD 201 have partnered reminds us all we are a community and together we will support each other through this. Mrs. Briddick “I live and teach in this community and I am really proud of our district right now.” Mrs. Frye shared, “school and the classroom and our interactions are not just about academics only; it is about coming together to support a child’s growth. We are social creatures and we need each other right now more than ever.”
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