As the new routines are setting in, students, families and staff are getting creative with remote learning. Whether it’s designating a student as a “chat boss” during a Teams classroom meeting, creating rhymes about missing their teachers, or helping others by learning how to make masks, our community has come together to continue to help our students learn and thrive.
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Individualized Support for Each and Every Student
Carolyn Edwards is counseling high school students virtually through the pandemic. Teams meetings get a thumbs up from Edwards, who has been using the platform to meet with students, in addition to exchanging emails with students and parents.
Edwards is helping students with questions and concerns that are causing worry and uneasiness for a lot of high school students right now. From graduation to college financial and staying connected with friends to staying healthy – physically and emotionally. Overall, Edwards feels like teachers are working with students to make sure they have what they need. “Each student is an individual in terms of how they learn and respond,” she says. Different students need different supports, including emails and reminders. “Teachers have been super supportive with how they contact the students.”
“I feel like the cohesion of the faculty and counseling team – the support we give each other – that is really positive right now,” Edwards says. For herself and her family, Edwards is focused on staying healthy. She is reading more and eating healthy while social distancing and spending time with her husband and son.
Providing Consistency through Creative Content
Sergio Desantiago Dominguez (Sr. de Santiago to students) reorganized a corner of his home to use as his remote learning space. He slowly put together an aesthetically beautiful, calming space with some personal touches. He ordered a microphone to help with the audio in his daily videos, brightened it up with a lamp and included a houseplant for greenery. His nearby bookshelf holds some personal items, including a doll his girlfriend purchased over the winter. Sr. de Santiago was initially surprised when students began asking a lot of questions about her. The small deer with a striped dress, known as “Rosita,” became very popular. Occasionally, she joins Sr. de Santiago in videos. Sometimes Rosita is the one who poses the “Question of the Day” to the class. He has used that as a way to teach about audiences – Rosita provides another audience, in addition to Sr. de Santiago.
It is challenging to engage the students remotely, so Sr. de Santiago is often thinking about how to create content that is informative, but also engaging and a little entertaining. He records a morning message video and often includes music, dancing, he wears costumes and he includes Rosita and other props. “The morning message has been a hit with students and parents.” He is using what he knows about social media and lessons from popular YouTubers to engage his audience of first grade students. “Keep your followers wanting more!” His read aloud videos have been popular – the class can’t get enough of him reading children’s books in Spanish.
Sr. de Santiago’s videos are more than just entertainment – they provide consistency for the students during a time when a lot is unpredictable. “Things change on a daily basis,” says Sr. de Santiago.” But the videos don’t change, and Rosita doesn’t change – consistency for children is important.” The constancy of the classroom routine is helpful for him, as well. “What can I control?” he asks himself. “I can control what I give to my kids – the lessons and the activities. It gives me a sense of stability, as well.”
Sr. de Santiago is enjoying additional contact and involvement with parents. They join his check-ins with students and email him regularly. “I really love the communication with parents,” he says. One mom took notes during his conference with her student and reached out to thank him. She said she learned a lot just from the short conversation about reading and will use what he demonstrated at home. “Not only am I helping the students, I feel like I am helping the parents.”
Inspiring Animation and an Empowering Podcast
Chad Magendanz, a Computer Science teacher at Odle Middle School and Sammamish High School, will often teach his animation class as a cartoon of himself. The animated Chad looks like him, complete with glasses and a matching haircut. His arms gesture and his head wiggles similar to a bobble-head doll.
“I’m a big believer in flipping the classroom,” Magendanz says. He already has experience through his work the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction on the Online Learning Advisory Committee. Prior to distance learning, Magendanz implemented some aspects of a “flipped classroom” by providing experts and examples of the topics and assignments that students review on their own time and in the classroom Magendanz helps them do the hands-on work. Magendanz is leading two online class sessions each week for his students with a third optional session for students who want more content. “The silver lining is that this is an opportunity to try something new,” Magendanz says.
Recently, Magendanz received podcast assignments from his students. He said about two-thirds of them wanted to discuss COVID-19. In a time that makes it somewhat difficult to connect with students, the podcasts provided great insight into what is going on with his class. “The podcasts provide a window into their thoughts and emotional state during this difficult time,” says Magendanz.
Engineering from Home
Despite that James Burke’s classroom content at Tyee Middle School is usually very hands-on, he has found ways to successfully move his students to a virtual space. “I love the shop environment and working with kids and seeing them use their hands and their minds,” Burke says. With the transition to remote learning, Burke needed to find ways for his students to get a similar experience at home.
Thanks to an online engineering platform, Burke’s students are getting the opportunity to simulate what real engineers do. “The problem-solving is still happening,” he says. Students would have been designing and building real gliders and then testing them outside this spring. Instead, they are provided specs for a virtual glider and go through the process online. Students brainstorm, design, test and then maybe re-visit their design and test again – everything a real engineer does. “They are able to virtually test their designs and compete – like a video game – with other students.” There are bright spots with remote learning. His two classes are doing the same projects, so students can partner up and work with a friend who is in the other class. “It keeps the kids connected,” he says. “They are still working on engineering projects.”
Burke also gives his students optional activities to do at home and encourages them to do them with their family. Students are encouraged to build things out of recyclables and other items they have at home – cereal boxes, Amazon boxes, packaging, coffee stirrers and other objects. “I want the kids to have that fun of building and creating,” Burke says. One of those optional activities was to send a postcard to Blue Origin for their Postcards to Space program, organized by the company’s nonprofit, Club for the Future. Students designed postcards and send it to Blue Origin, who sends it into space and stamps it before sending it back to the students.
This summer would have included a trip with Burke’s Satellite Club students to launch their near-space satellites with weather balloons. The satellites reach nearly 110,000 feet and collect data that Burke and his students analyze and write about. The data and reports are used for science fair projects and expositions. With the student launch cancelled for this summer, Burke has teamed up with a Blue Origin scientist and engineer for a live cast satellite launch this June. Students will still be able to participate in the launch remotely and have access to the data.
Burke is brainstorming while he prepares to teach the rest of the year at home and plans to continue to engage his students. He is prepared to 3D print their designs at home and is working on other ways to make his class fun and interesting while teaching remotely. As a compassionate teacher he is concerned about the connections he has with his students. “I ask myself, ‘Am I reaching them? Am I connecting?’”
Thank you, Ms. Fenedick
Nicole Antich’s son, a 6th grade student at Highland Middle School, was excited to join Ms. Fenedick and other students for an hour of Spanish via Microsoft Teams. “He especially liked her whiteboard,” said Antich. Her son was chosen to be the “chat boss” for the period and was responsible for making sure that his classmates’ questions and comments were recognized. Her message for the teacher: “Thank you Ms. Fenedick for keeping the kids engaged!!! You really lifted my son’s spirits today!”
High-Quality Instruction at a Distance
Before the first closure, fourth grade teacher Rylie Uselman sent packets of work home with students and she prepared her students to get on Microsoft Teams. She knew that being able to communicate, either through online chat or email, would be important. “We had done at Outlook crash course,” Uselman said. When the closure was extended through the end of the school year, Uselman checked in with the parents and guardians of her student and asked them to respond to a survey. The feedback she received was that they liked the computer work, but also having physical copies and something to do complete on paper. Uselman made additional packets and dropped them off at her students’ homes (while respecting distancing guidelines). “It was nice to connect with waves through windows.” She also saw some handmade signs.
The social-emotional needs of her students are the primary focus of video sessions and check-ins for Uselman. “Our school community is so rich,” Uselman says. “What kids are missing is the social interaction.” Previously, there were so many goings-on and opportunities through the Enatai PTSA and other school activities. In the meantime, students are connecting via Teams in scheduled video sessions, posting about their schoolwork to get feedback from peers and emailing Uselman daily writing in response to the prompts she sends to her class. Uselman is getting creative with connections despite physical distancing – her latest packet included a blank, stamped postcard addressed to her for her students to write on or decorate and pop in the mail. This week, Uselman is reading “Flat Stanley” by Jeff Brown and she sent each of her students a flat Ms. Uselman to accompany them as they do homework, go for a walk or engage in other adventures.
Kindergartner Ruby misses her teacher, Ms. Nakamichi, and turned to poetry to express herself. Ruby made up this colorful rhyme about “peachy” Ms. Nakamichi complete with illustrations.
Virus virus go away.
Don’t come back another day.
Staying at home is not so peachy,
Because we miss Ms. Nakamichi.
Tim Harris, assistant principal at Interlake High School, is continuing to support teachers and other staff at Interlake High School. “I feel for the teachers – because they have a totally different routine,” said Harris. Part of his job is serving as the go-to administrator for a handful of departments, a structure that has endured and become even more critical during the school closure. Staff at Interlake have been meeting weekly via Microsoft Teams, but with about 130 people on a video call, not everyone can ask specific questions. That is when assistant principals step in and connect with individual departments. Harris says that they talk through things discussed in the larger staff meetings. “They also get a chance to ask me to advocate for them,” Harris explains.
Harris misses being at school and problem solving on the go. “I enjoy interacting with our school community,” says Harris. In the meantime, he isn’t walking the halls of Interlake, but he is in touch with staff via video calls, chats and email. And he moves around his house – from his backyard to the dining room table, where his elementary-age child does online learning, to the basement. “I’ve been working from my son’s craft table, believe it or not. It’s also the game room.” Harris is on the move again when his kids take a break for game or crafts.
Sewing for a Cause
Emme is a first-grade student in Bellevue School District. Outside of remote learning, she recently learned how to use a sewing machine! Emme has been hard at work cutting and sewing masks to sell and raise money for Bellevue LifeSpring’s COVID-19 relief fund.
Providing Courageous Support
Ruth Rosas, a counselor at Wilburton Elementary School, wants to do everything she can to support the school’s families and students while buildings are closed.
When asked about all Rosas has done, Principal Beth Hamilton said, “She is amazing and set up systems for check-ins with students daily/weekly with her or with other staff members.” According to Hamilton, Rosas has helped families with technology so students can access remote learning resources and helped families get food and childcare. She created Social Emotional Learning (SEL) video lessons, joins SEL live check-ins and circles with classes via Teams and more. Hamilton describes Rosas as doing so much for so many families that isn’t visible, but is impactful. “She is the glue behind the scenes that is reaching so many of our families.”
Service to Others
Carly, grade 4, is staying busy when she is not engaged in her remote learning by making masks with her mom, Maggie. Carly and Maggie donated their masks to emergency childcare workers.