Learning from afar

Published 6:51 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2020

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The school bell rings at 1 p.m. One-by-one, students file into class, joined by John Small Elementary co-teachers Holly Patrick and Melissa Tripp. Principal Kelly Makepeace is observing the class.

The day’s lesson is severe weather — tornados and hurricanes, specifically. The children get a brief, yet interesting lesson, complete with hand-drawn visual aids and a short video from National Geographic, topped off with with two teacher-led science experiments.

Here’s the catch — it’s all taking place online, in the span of about 30 minutes.

With school buildings closed until at least May 15, teachers throughout Beaufort County, along with their students, are learning to adjust to remote learning, using tools like Zoom and Google Classroom.

“It’s affected the way they’re getting the material, and me physically seeing them, but I’m still pushing out the material, and we’re all learning together,” Patrick said. “As a whole, we’re all adjusting to our new lives together. We do a lot of online meetings together, so we still get to see and talk and have a lot of that one-on-one time that the kids love so much from their teachers.”

Patrick and Tripp share many of the same fifth-grade students at JSS. While Patrick teaches math and Tripp teaches reading, they tag team science lessons together. They, and many other Beaufort County Schools teachers, are finding innovative ways to keep their students engaged with learning.

CLASS EXPERIMENT: John Small Elementary fifth grade science and reading teacher Melissa Tripp demonstrates an online science experiment for during an online session with her students. (Daily News)

“I’ve never been more impressed with the teachers than I am right now,” Makepeace said. “They’ve taken everything in stride. From the moment we knew we would be going to remote learning, they have just worked together and said, ‘Alright, let’s look at the vendors, what we’ve taught, and give the kids the work we know they can do at home that’s not going to be overwhelming.’ They never thought about themselves, how it was going to affect them or their families. They 100% put their students first.”

From the top down, the same can be said for BCS employees across the board, according to Superintendent Matthew Cheeseman. Up until now, students have been doing mostly review work. In the next week, however, there will be new material coming their way. For children who have trouble accessing the internet, the school system is mailing paper packets directly to homes.

“Overall, I’d say we’re functioning at a high level,” Cheeseman said. “I’m just extremely proud of our teachers for the commitment to their students. Also, when you look at a group that’s gone above and beyond, how about our school nutrition teams, where we’re now at 13 different sites instead of just five. We’ve had some amazing individuals step up and respond to our community.”

Per the North Carolina Department of Public instruction, there will be no standardized testing for the spring semester. DPI has also arranged for special accommodations to make sure seniors graduate on time. With those stresses set aside for now, teachers can focus even more on what’s important — their students.

“They’re just smiling from ear to ear, just to hear their teacher say, ‘Hey’ and use their name,” Patrick said. “It’s so important right now.”

For more information on sites where students can get a hot meal or access the internet, see daily community calendar listings on page 2.