SPRINGFIELD TWP. For Lisa Staudt, a second grade teacher at Springfield’s Young Elementary School, spring is her favorite time with her class and, this year, she has been making the best of that time with her students from a distance.
“Spring is the time when everyone knows what to expect from each other,” she said. “We have become a family and the kiddos are all comfortable in our classroom routine.”
For those reasons, Staudt said there is a great deal of learning that occurs from March through the end of the school year and fun activities.
This year, however, students across America missed out on those experiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It has been a challenge for teachers, administrators, and students alike. But they have all come through, working together to learn and deal with the changes that have occurred.
When Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine announced March 11 that schools would be closed, teachers and the Springfield Local administration had been working in advance of the announcement to compile packets to give students. During the next few weeks, administrators and teachers began putting into place a remote learning option, which went into place on April 6.
Springfield Superintendent Chuck Sincere said it is new for all of them and he is proud of the staff and how they have all come together to make online learning happen.
“It is incredible,” he said.
During spring break, administrators and teachers put together an online learning program that Sincere said could take them from here to forever.
“This may be a new method to teach children when difficulties arise. This could spike up again,” he said.
Schrop Intermediate School Principal Lisa Vardon said nothing can replace the in-person interaction between students and their educators, “but we are certainly trying to provide our students and families with the best support that we can during this time.”
As a principal, Vardon said she believes her main job is to be a support person for staff, students, and parents, and to ask, "How can I help?"
Vardon said she speaks with teachers daily and answers questions or offers assistance.
Young Elementary School Principal Jennifer Ganzer said the online teaching has been an adjustment.
“It has been so exciting to see my teachers embrace this online platform to ensure that the students are still getting the instruction they need. They are trying to make it as painless as possible while instructing students and keeping those connections and relationships strong,” she said.
In the Classrooms
In Kristine DiLauro’s fourth grade classroom hangs a quote which, she said she and her students live by, “You don’t grow when things are easy. You grow when things are challenging.”
She has kept that in mind each day as remote learning has taken her out of her comfort zone.
“But I think change is good sometimes,” she said.
DiLauro worries about each child like they were her own. Are they safe? Are they healthy? Are they happy? Are they learning?
DiLauro explained that teachers are required to Zoom each day at set times. She said some days she will have many students and sometimes one, but she is there whenever needed. She said she has met students’ dogs, chickens and even bearded dragons.
“Getting kids to learn begins with building a relationship. We were in the heart and soul of the year when we left. I miss them,” she said.
Teachers worked to come up with ways to let students know they are missed. DiLauro said they loved snack time so she connected with parents to do a surprise “Hello-Drop and Go” for students with “I miss you” cookies.
She was able to see and hear each child.
“Now I can rest for a little while,” she said.
For 7th Grade teachers Tina Hartong and Angela Callaway, they have been using Google Classroom for a few years. They were able to purchase Chrome Books for the class through a grant from GAR Foundation with colleague Rob Lane.
“Ironically, this school year we have used Google Classroom more than ever. Students became accustom to being independent workers,” said Hartong.
She and Callaway would screen record lessons and post on Google Classroom. Students could work at their own pace, which freed up time to work with struggling students and enrich students who were ahead.
“What a relief it was when the entire 7th grade was comfortable with not Google Classroom but being independent learners,” Hartong said. “We have not skipped a beat in our classroom. We know many of our student’s lives and routines have been impacted by this virus. If we have a student struggling, we are reaching out to them in any way possible.”
For Hartong, life at home has been extra hectic since her husband, Chad Hartong, teaches 7th and 9th grade science in Springfield and they have children in the 6th and 8th grades who are at home doing online work.
Schrop teacher Holly Reed said they sing their class song on Zoom.
Reed is also trying to do special things in new ways. Normally, each week they highlight a student as Star of the Week. They interview them and everyone in the class offers compliments. She has been videotaping their interview to share in Google Classroom and compliments come through as a Google document. Reed also worked on a way to complete their yearly International Fair, where students display their research about a specific country, and share it virtually.
Reed said it important to say that the teachers have really worked very hard to learn new ways to share content with students.
“There are so many wonderful resources available. The situation has prompted many of us to push beyond our comfort levels to learn new programs, there are great resources to find ways to connect with students,” she said.
High School Algebra Teacher Meredith Gray said her students have learned to write on the board using the annotation tools in Zoom and with their mouse or finger. She holds a one-hour lesson on Zoom every Monday and Wednesday. “I feel it is important for my students to see me and hear my voice to stay connected and motivated,” she said. “I am trying to keep their learning environment as "normal" as possible.
Jennifer Smith teaches French in grades 8 to 12 and she is primarily using the app Seesaw, an online learning journal where students find creative ways to learn, complete assignments and share their new knowledge with each other.
“I could never have imagined that we would be learning from home, but we are and it’s working, and the flow of our digital classroom is similar to our traditional classroom,” she said. “Students are adjusting and they are beginning to feel comfortable and I’m impressed with their efforts and the work they are sharing.”
Each week Smith shares videos of herself with students and makes recordings of our new, French stories. Students are making recordings speaking French and practicing new gestures. They use digital tools to show comprehension and illustrate their work
Teachers and administrators are impressed with students, parents and the quick learning that has gone on using technology.
“It is nice to see people being innovative,” said Springfield Business Manager Dustin Boswell.
Ganzer said she believes the teachers have learned more about technology in weeks than in years. They are keeping the face to face connections in their Zoom rooms meeting with students to help with schoolwork, read stories, give presentations and some have even done an occasional craft with the kids.
“They are utilizing a lot of different online resources to help engage and assess student learning appropriately,” she said.