High school teachers bring variety of ways to connect with students during closure, includes hosting virtual spirit week
High school science teachers participating in Red and White Day
Social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram were blowing up during the third week of the state-ordered school closure, with many Bellefonte Area staff and students who posted themed photos of themselves. Sometimes it included wearing pajamas; sometimes it was wearing a hat or tie-dye shirt; and sometimes peoples’ pets were involved.
It was all part of an online Spirit Week that started March 30 and lasted through the end of the week. The campaign was created by high school business teacher Andrew Weigold and students from the school’s Yearbook Club, which he oversees.
“(We) wanted to spread some school spirit and get students involved from home,” Weigold said.
It took a couple days for the themes to catch on after the announcement was made through email and social media, but by Wednesday, the posts began filling newsfeeds.
- Monday: Pajama day
- Tuesday: Tie-dye day
- Wednesday: Pet day
- Thursday: Hat day
- Friday: Red and white day
*Weigold with his wife and son participating in tie-dye day
The most popular, Weigold said, were pet day and red and white day. And as a teacher, he added that being a part of something that keeps him connected with students is important.
“It is important for them to know we are still here and that we care about them,” Weigold said. “It isn't just about when we are in school or the grades. We invest our time in them.”
The same can be said about other teachers at Bellefonte Area High School who have been working endlessly to make sure students are getting the support they need.
*By Brit Milazzo, public relations director, BASD
Question and answer with teachers
*Bellefonte Area High School teachers Carla Cipro, Rachael Davis, Elizabeth Devinney and Drew Eddinger
How are you connecting with students and why is it important to keep in touch with them?
Carla Cipro, video production teacher
Starting the second week of the quarantine, I have been holding regular office hours via email (Monday, Wednesday and Friday) for an hour on each of those days. Also on Wednesdays, I host a two-hour Zoom session with any student that wants to pop in and say hi. One of my ongoing menu options is for students that have access to smartphones can make videos or take pictures and share them with me. It’s been fun to see what they have been doing while at home. I put out information each week using Google Classroom, and have also been creating my own videos using Clips or iMovie to share with the kids and community. Staying connected to students and the community is important for everyone’s mental health. I’ve shared with the students that even though you aren’t receiving grades, it’s still important to stay in a learning mindset and be productive each day. I do miss seeing them and my colleagues. I hope that we get the chance to reunite at least once before the school year ends.
Rachael Davis, learning support teacher and transition coordinator
During office hours, I have a live Zoom session that my students can jump in on. The other week I had a good bunch log on, and it was fun to see each other and talk. We talked about journaling or documenting what is going on for them to look back on in the years to come. Outside of my office hours, students can schedule one-on-one or small group Zoom sessions. (For instance) I have two scheduled today: One to check in with a family and offer some resources, and the other is to provide instruction on social and emotional skills for a specific student. If students do not have access to the internet or a computer, I schedule phone calls with them and their guardians to touch base and keep them well-informed on the world of education. I also have a Google Classroom I made for kids on my caseload with a newsletter that I update frequently, so they are all in the loop. I will also be sharing resources on this (site) as well – news resources of ongoing events, social and emotional resources to help families get through this time, and transitional resources for students wanting to continue preparing for college and/or employment after high school.
Elizabeth Devinney, math teacher
- Google Classroom: Post weekly puzzles in logic, number sense, algebra, geometry, and a challenge to keep kids thinking. Post math-specific articles discussing how statisticians are tracking and predicting coronavirus cases (and) impacts. Remind students that I'm there for them if they need anything and/or are worried (about) food or housing insecurity, academic enrichment (and more).
- Instagram (@hansenmathbahs): Weekly puzzles are posted, as well as random daily life activities or (information) where I'm running across math in the real world. Students can send me a direct message or comment on posts.
- Email: Email students who are working on Get More Math, an online software program, to praise them for their perseverance. I'm also working on going through my class list to ask individuals how they're doing and what their family is up to. I also provide feedback and information to students who are trying to correct previous assignments and (seek) more practice.
- Texting: A couple years ago, I created a Google Voice account that I reserve purely for student contact. When kids are stuck on a problem at home or want to clarify instruction, they can text me to get almost-immediate feedback. … I find it's a lot easier for kids to send a picture of their work than try to describe it in an email.
All of these things were in place before the break, but were used in a slightly different way. Some of the Instagram posts were more focused on showing what we did in class or sharing math resources. When we meet in person, I'm always there in the morning and after school to help students. I know that math is hard, and it (can be) hard to get help. I've found that giving kids that extra one-on-one time outside of class can help build relationships and fill in any gaps in understanding they have. It's definitely worth it for me to invest in my students that way. I think it's really important to get to know students and stay connected with them academically and personally because it helps you understand where kids are coming from. If you know more of their story, you can help them navigate challenges, be a person they trust and work with them to overcome the barriers to success they experience.
Drew Eddinger, biology and chemistry teacher
When we left school on March 11, many universities, including Penn State, made the decision to close campuses for several weeks. Over the next two days, school districts began to have similar discussions. The media was spreading mixed messages and my social media was blowing up with everyone's personal opinions. I spent a night finding as many reliable resources as I could that I thought my students would be able to understand. The next day I sent out a list of resources with some driving questions like what ‘flattening the curve’ means, and to justify the closure of schools and businesses. About a quarter of my students completed this optional guided research before the menus were established, and this drove me to provide continuous coverage of the situation. Almost every day since school closed, I have posted reports and research to either Google Classroom or my professional Instagram (account). A couple weeks ago, (teacher) Ashlie Crosson shared a classroom library that she made using Padlet and I realized that I could do something similar with the resources I collected. I organized my COVID-19 website based on a variety of media to hopefully appeal to a variety of students and their learning preferences.
Right now, more than ever before, an understanding of science and how it works is crucial. It's my job as their science teacher to guide them through this. With the optional learning plan that has been established, my goal is to help students practice their science skills, including testing their hypotheses, as well as collecting and analyzing data. Additionally, my focus is to help students apply what they have learned this year to the coronavirus outbreak. Cell membranes, biochemistry, protein synthesis, genetics, evolution, human anatomy, population biology – it's all here in this one situation. I will continue to turn these scary and confusing circumstances into an authentic learning experience.