Since Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced on April 17 that all schools will be closed for the remainder of the year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, area teachers have been scrambling to try and do their best at keeping their students educated for the next month and a half.
With different students having different challenges as far as receiving educational materials, it hasn’t been easy for teachers at Anamosa, Midland and Springville schools, but they’re all doing their best under the current circumstances to make sure students don’t fall too far behind before school hopefully starts back up again in August.
It hasn’t been easy for the students either.
“Right now, teachers are emailing us out dates with when we’re supposed to get onto Zoom or Google Classroom and watch videos or watch them give out assignments for students to work on,” Anamosa High School junior Nathan Keating said, who hasn’t been in school for more than a month but is still receiving educational materials through emails from his teachers to keep sharp.
“Some teachers have different ways with how they get their stuff out to us, but in the end, it all works and is helping me get through this weird point in time. Obviously right now, I’d normally be in class, but I like getting the assignments, so I can work at my own pace. There’s no pressure or time constraints, and it puts it on us, the students, to get the work done.”
Getting that work done at home, however, can come at a price.
“Sometimes, it’s tough to stay focused,” Keating said. “There are a lot of distractions at home, and that’s something I’ve been working on. Hopefully, once we all make it through this, it will make each student appreciate how lucky we all are to be able to go to school and learn, because for me, this is a little tougher trying to do it on my own.
“Yes, we can still ask questions, and the teachers are doing their best to try and make the experience as normal as possible, but you need to be very self-motivated to get all the work done, and I guess that’s just another part of the educational process. In college, there’s not going to be teachers getting after you to get work done.”
Springville High School sophomore Morgan Nachazel agrees.
“You have to be responsible and check your emails regularly because that’s the main communication between teachers and students right now,” she said. “Each of our teachers here at Springville give us learning opportunities, and it’s up to us to get that work done. We usually get about three assignments per teacher per week, and we have the week to get it all done. All the teachers are great about being available if we have questions, too, so it’s not like we’re completely alone at this, though obviously change can be pretty scary. Our P.E. teacher even emails us workouts to keep our bodies in shape through an app called Platform. We’ve used that app in school, and now we’re doing everything at home.
“When we first made the switch to this type of learning, it was a little confusing, but honestly, right now, I feel like it’s just like going to school without actually being in the building. We’re still learning, but now it’s mainly up to us with how much of it we actually want to do from home.”
First-year Midland fifth-grade math and science teacher Kerrigan Riley is doing the best she can to keep her students as connected to school at the elementary level as well.
And much like from the student side of things, there have been challenges.
“Originally, the plan was do be back in school on May 1, so now that school has been cancelled for the rest of the year, we’ve been working on plans to keep our kids educated through the rest of what would have been our normal school year,” Riley said. “I’ve got a total of 34 kids, so we needed to call each of the families and try and figure out the best way to get educational materials to them. Not everyone has computers, and we found out some of the students’ only access to the internet and emails was through their parent’s cell phones. Obviously, that wasn’t going to work.”
With the help of Midland Director of Transportation John Stender, Riley was still able to connect.
Stender delivers educational packets to students without internet access and drops them off at their doorsteps every week.
“Last week, we researched planets and the sun, and everyone was able to get involved,” Riley said. “We’re doing the best we can for the kids and hopefully making a difference during this tough time for everyone.”
Midland, much like at Anamosa and Springville schools, are providing the educational materials to their students as a way to keep the learning process going, and the assignments are not graded nor will anything over the next few weeks affect grade point averages for high school students.
“Our teachers let us know that what they’re doing is for our benefit,” Nachazel said. “They don’t want us to fall behind. Because right now, that would be a very easy thing to do.”