Dear District 157-C Families,
I hope you are all staying healthy and safe during these challenging times.
Though we are now faced with a difficult situation that none of us have ever before experienced, we are all facing this together and are fortunate to live in a time when technology can keep us connected.
At our District, teachers and principals are coming up with innovative ways to keep students engaged and learning through this crisis.
Last week, the District participated in a spirit week featuring Book Theme Day, on which students were encouraged to wear something representing their favorite book character; Pajama Day; Hat Day; Sports Team Day; and District/School Pride Day.
On social media, families and teachers engage with one another by posting photos from their days. Grand Prairie posts daily read-aloud videos on its Twitter account, @GP157c.
Students, teachers and staff members at the District use virtual meeting software to connect with each other through video calls. Even though teachers are not physically present in the building, they continue to learn, grow, and enhance their teaching skill sets with their colleagues during virtual conferences. These virtual meetings also allow students the opportunity to see their teachers’ faces and connect more personally from afar.
Every student receives a weekly phone call from his or her classroom teacher. All year, the District has focused on the importance of developing students’ academic skills and their social emotional learning skills. The hope is that through phone calls and video chats, students, families and teachers feel more connected during a time when actual physical contact with family and friends is limited. Teachers also speak with parents during calls to answer questions and provide support.
Teachers send out emails to families and keep their webpages up-to-date with information to support at-home learning. Dave Thielen, Grand Prairie technology teacher, produces tech videos to help teachers take advantage of digital tools. PE teachers encourage students to participate in athletic challenges and at-home dance parties to stay active. At Chelsea, many teachers are playing online quiz games with students to create a sense of the classroom experience. Jenell Jaral created an online survey asking her students to share information about themselves with their classmates. Then, the class participated in a “How well do you know your classmates?” game. Teachers also use online tools like Nearpod to create interactive lessons for students.
Chelsea sends out an online Student Engagement Newsletter that includes videos of staff to engage students and interact with them. The newsletter includes riddles, jokes, read-aloud videos, at-home ENCORE and academic lessons, and more.
At Hickory Creek, teachers are using online platforms like Microsoft Teams and Google Classroom to share work, reflections and engage in online and video chats with students. Teachers also use the Remind app and the Google Voice app to maintain daily communication with students and families. Principal Jason Crockett reads from the novel “Look Both Ways” by Jason Reynolds in weekly videos posted to his webpage. English teachers are using the online book discussion program Parlay to engage students in conversations about literature. Additionally, the leaders of the school’s Poz Squad created a Virtual High Five Friday video that went out to families to spread positivity and remind everyone to be grateful for connections with each other.
The power of technology allows for so many innovative possibilities for connection and engagement during this difficult time. Though we all hope to be physically together again as soon as safely possible, we are grateful for all of the opportunities we have to connect right now.
Dr. Maura J. Zinni,
Superintendent of Schools