Lamphere officials encouraged by adjustment to remote learning

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published September 18, 2020

 Michelle Alexander, a kindergarten teacher at Hiller Elementary School in Lamphere Public Schools, visits student Jonah Champlin to drop off supplies and a special sign for the start of the new year. Officials in the district feel encouraged by the connections teachers have been able to form with students even during a time of remote learning due to the pandemic.

Michelle Alexander, a kindergarten teacher at Hiller Elementary School in Lamphere Public Schools, visits student Jonah Champlin to drop off supplies and a special sign for the start of the new year. Officials in the district feel encouraged by the connections teachers have been able to form with students even during a time of remote learning due to the pandemic.

Photo provided by Michelle Alexander

 Michelle Alexander teaches her class of kindergarteners via the free videoconferencing app Zoom.

Michelle Alexander teaches her class of kindergarteners via the free videoconferencing app Zoom.

Photo provided by Michelle Alexander

Advertisement

MADISON HEIGHTS — The switch to remote learning for the start of the new school year was not a decision made lightly by local school districts. But so far, so good, according to officials at the Lamphere Public Schools.

Jane Jurvis, the director of curriculum and instruction at the Lamphere Schools, said that staff, parents and students alike have been sharing stories with her that show how “powerful teaching moments are present, even in this strange and stressful beginning of a school year.”

She points to the district’s kindergarten team as one shining example. The teachers there shared encouraging stories of meeting with their students in person as prep for the new year.

“All of the families I visited made sure they were home to receive their child’s backpack and Hiller Wildcat sign,” said Michelle Alexander, a kindergarten teacher, noting she emailed and texted first to check their availability.

“All of my families were happy to meet me and were completely appreciative. All of these families were on board about going virtual, and while they were disappointed it would not be our usual start to kindergarten, they were 100% supportive of what needed to be done,” she said. “And all of my kindergarteners were full of smiles — some shy, perhaps, and some wanting to talk all morning with me, but smiling nonetheless. You can tell when someone is smiling, even with a mask, because those eyes just twinkle, right?”

Alexander added that parents were grateful for the iPads that were provided to the students.

“Whether it’s in brick or click, I love teaching these (kids)!” she said.

Julie Serbenski, a junior kindergarten teacher, said she received a message from one mom whose daughter asked if she could come over for a sleepover. Another mom sent her a message thanking her and telling her that her son loved her already. She also spent about an hour with a family of two junior kindergarteners. The mom is single and the grandmother had moved in to help her twin boys with remote learning. Serbenski helped the grandmother get the boys connected via Google Classroom and answered their questions, getting to know them along the way.

She’s also been helping drop off supplies for the students.

“I absolutely loved delivering bags to my students,” Serbenski said. “It gave me the opportunity to meet students and families in person, as well as begin building the relationship that is so crucial to successful teaching and learning.”

Another kindergarten teacher, Lindsay Otto, said that meeting the families brought everybody closer together.

“As a parent myself, I realize the power of human connection. Meeting the kindergarteners and their families brought such joy,” Otto said. “We were able to get to know one another and start a strong foundation for our school family. Nerves were settled, worries calmed and laughs were shared! Learning is social and teaching is personal. I’m so glad we started our year together with the home visits.”

The good vibes have extended to the high school, as well. Lauren Martin, an English teacher at Lamphere High, said everyone is adjusting because there’s a real desire to succeed.

“One thought that keeps coming back to me when I find myself feeling unsure about this school year is that even with all of its challenges and unknowns, we have to approach it no differently than how we have approached every other school year for our students — that is, by trying our very best, supporting each other, being patient and flexible, and by looking for the good in each day and holding onto that,” Martin said. “I’ve never seen a school year start with more anxiety or uncertainty, but I have also never seen a school year start with more compassion, teamwork and understanding.”  

“I remind myself of why I became a teacher — the kids,” she continued. “Whether we are face to face or virtual, they are the best part about my job. And we make sure we have some fun while we are learning this way, so we do things like guest DJ Friday, where a student picks a song to play and we have a little dance party to take us into the weekend. I am hoping if I can focus on making the best of our situation that those moments will be what the kids remember.”

Jackie Sosin, the principal of Lessenger Elementary, said positivity was a priority.

“It was our goal from the start to mimic the joyful experiences that students would receive during a typical school year,” Sosin said. “All staff volunteered their time during the evening to be present for the learning drive-thru materials pickup, so they could make an important face-to-face connection with each student. Signs were hand-delivered to all kindergarteners on their first day of school by their teachers. We held the first day of school pictures with the mascot at the school marquee during the evening. Our parent groups are planning drive-thru bagel sales, drive-thru ice cream socials, a drive-thru Halloween event and even a drive-thru circus!

“This year will be like no other. And with the efforts of the Lamphere staff and community, I believe it will be remembered as a positive one.”

Advertisement