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Stepping up to care for students and community - Part 5

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We are on week (I’m no longer counting) of school closures and our members are still hard at work serving our students, their families and our communities. They are being honest about their struggles and getting even more creative in how they show support and care. Here are some of our most recent stories.

La Vasha Murdoch (2) North Central EA President and first grade teacher at Saddle Mountain Elementary School in Wahluke, La Vasha Murdoch, had this message to share on Facebook yesterday. It resonates with so many of us. "Want to know one of the hardest things about this 'distance learning?' When one of my kids tells me that she’s having nightmares and can’t sleep, I can’t listen to her share about it because she’s embarrassed in front of her family, and I can’t hug her and tell her that everything’s going to be okay. COVID-19 has taken more than our classrooms away. For some, it has taken their safety, security, and the one person they can count on not to judge them. 💔 Video calls and zoom meetings are not adequate for some things. Praying for my babies.🙏🏾"

Shaw Middle Food Delivery (2)Maddie Halverson, CIS site coordinator at Shaw Middle School in Spokane, works with community partners to get additional food for families in need. It's a program called "Bite to Go." This program is in addition to the school district provided meals. Some days there are complete meals from the community partners, care packages, for complete family meals. Families are able to come to the designated schools to get food, but some are unable to get to the pick up locations. Many volunteers, alongside other school staff, like campus resource officer Dan Johnson, load up their cars and deliver food to families' homes. Dan says, "It's rewarding to see the happy faces of the people who receive the much needed food." He is thankful to be part of such a great program for our kids, families, and community. Spokane Schools also works with Durham transportation to coordinate drop off locations for other families in need.

Martha Patterson 4 (2)As what most would call a “seasoned” educator, I have absolutely loved the teacher directed collaboration opportunities the COVID 19 school closures have opened for me. Teaching and our work day being what it is, we do not get nearly enough opportunities to collaborate with our peers. Being a middle school Special Ed. and intervention teacher, working with multiple grade levels, collaboration is even more challenging.

In the past few weeks, I have learned how to Zoom, screen share, Google Classroom, and scan and create a Google Doc from my phone...and my teachers have been my Millennial and Gen X colleagues! My skills and knowledge have been stretched, expanded and extended … literally, it feels like I have gone through a long yoga session and it feels good! More importantly, I’ve collaborated and built relationships with folks who were once acquaintances but I now consider colleagues in my building and in my district.

I can honestly say I am a much more skilled educator than I was just a few weeks ago. I'm grateful for the opportunities for growth that the school closure has created for me.
Martha Patterson is a special education teacher and Central Kitsap EA member. She also serves as a NEA State Director on the WEA board.

Gina on-line teach left (2)Recently, we saw a comment on a post about navigating continuous learning from Spokane EA member and teacher at Chase Middle School Gina Parry Rye. “Many students don't turn the cameras on at all. They can listen and speak and see my teaching screen. But it is not necessary for me to see them or their homes. They also are not required to speak. They can type questions to us while watching and listening to the lesson. Most students mute their mic, so we don't hear the home either. I record the lesson, so the student can go watch any time they want without any interaction with a teacher or classmates.” We wanted to know more. Here are Gina's thoughts. "One positive, that I am seeing from teaching on-line, is that students are showing perseverance and creativity.

When the first assignment was due, some students uploaded the assignment to TEAMS, but others took pictures with their phone and emailed me. Some typed their answers (not easy in math), some loaded their assignment into PowerPoint. I even got a video. If they make me a Tik-Tok showing their math assignment, I will know we have reached the pinnacle of on-line learning. Ha.

I worry about leaving some behind. The kids who haven’t shown up, who haven’t logged in, who haven’t emailed, who haven’t checked out a computer. Checking on their well-being is my first priority, and I continue to do that, but I worry about widening the gap. I also know that we will return to school at some point. My hope is that if I can teach half of the kids, then those kids can help the others catch up. It’s the only way I can make peace with it.

I hope students will return to school with increased self-sufficiency, and an understanding that school really is about learning, and not about grading. Kids are taking their learning seriously. They are asking great questions. They seem as happy to see me, as I am to see them. I think it helps them and me to hear that we all are doing similar things in our spare time—sleeping, gaming, baking, walking, eating and watching TV."

Gina on-line teach left (2)Mount Si High School teacher Kyle Warren is using a 3D printer at home to make plastic face shields for frontline responders to the coronavirus, donating his first batch to the Snoqualmie Valley Hospital.

“The toll that the COVID-19 virus is having around the world is devastating and to hear so many stories about healthcare professionals, emergency responders, and others on the front lines that are working in such dangerous conditions without the protective equipment they need is upsetting. My sister-in-law and my aunt are nurses and I worry about what might happen to them,” shared Warren. “When I heard that members of the maker community were stepping in to help produce face shields and other devices, I felt inspired to do my part.”

Warren, who teaches Computer Science and Robotics at Mount Si High School, explained that he did a lot of research online to find a design he could make with the materials he had on hand, as well as one that is approved by the National Institutes of Health. While he does the printing and modeling, his wife Christy is helping with assembly, making contacts with health care workers and emergency responders, and delivering products.

Warren added, “I'm so amazed by the impact that technology can have on people's lives, especially when used in the right ways. I try to share that excitement with my students every day. Making these face shields with our 3D printers is one small way that I can give back to our community.” Read Kyle’s story from the Snoqualmie School District.

What is happening in your area of the state? Send us pictures and anecdotes to, so we can share your work and dedication to support Washington students and their families through these difficult times. 

Check back regularly and follow us on instagram, @wa_education, on twitter @washingtonea, and on Facebook @WashingtonEducation to see more stories like these. You can read last week's stories here
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