by Sheila Dykstra, Elementary Principal and Andrew Kleyn, Middle School and High School Principal
Our teachers demonstrated remarkable resiliency and ingenuity in adapting to changing circumstances and designing innovative learning experiences this past school year. Teachers adjusted to the pandemic reality by overcoming new obstacles and using the new context to provide learning experiences that were not in place before. These new ways included finding more opportunities to take students out into our beautiful campus to learn, designing take-home chemistry kits to continue tactile experiments, and using video conferencing and online learning platforms to connect with students. It has been said that disruption produces innovation.
We certainly experienced disruption. In an effort to keep our school community healthy we put in place a number of mitigation strategies that altered how teachers provide instruction. Physical distance, face coverings, and cohorts became practices that shaped how we delivered instruction. Instead of moving students throughout the building, we moved teachers from room to room. Every day, you found teachers like Mr. O’Neill moving his “music room” on a cart through the hallways. With limitations on singing, he used apps such as Garage Band to teach students how to understand and produce music. You would also find him teaching choral music in the bus barn where he had enough space to allow students to spread out and sing.
Teachers at all levels of the school managed two separate learning platforms. As a school, we prioritized in-person learning while also providing a remote option for students with medical needs. For Mrs. Jackson, it was imperative that her remote students actively participate in her class. This meant that her iPad became the platform by which her remote students joined her class via Zoom. She moved the iPad around the room allowing her remote students to actively participate in all classroom learning.
While technology provided opportunities for teachers to engage remote students, teachers were increasingly seeing the need to unplug and step away from the computer screen. Many of our teachers started exploring our extensive outdoor campus with their students. Mr. Lohman’s class found that stepping outside and spending time in God’s beautiful creation allowed them to open their minds to greater possibilities. Increased creativity, physical activity, and problem-solving together are just some of the benefits of spending time outdoors. These students inspired us to explore and expand the opportunities our beautiful campus has to offer.
We are thankful for our teachers and the many ways they rose to the challenge to teach in new and different ways. Our teachers live out the courage and creativity needed to pursue ongoing growth for themselves and for their students. We are so grateful for each of them!