“The inherent difference of this year comes down to procedures, like mask-wearing and hand washing. Luckily, procedures are not new to kids; they are used to walking in lines and having assigned seating for lunch. The difference really comes down to virtual learning. That challenge becomes an extra burden for the students, families, and teachers – it’s a whole new job,” verbalized Lillian Klein, office manager of Our Lady of Hope and Holy Cross.
Geoff Henggeler is a parent and serves on the advisory council for Holy Cross. He explained his responsibility to our organization is to listen, hear and see the needs of our community.
“Home environments suddenly were transparent in online learning. Every Zoom exposed the needs of the students’ home as opposed to learning outside the home, where children did not have to bring their home life into the classroom like they do now,” Geoff tells us.
These never-before-seen views into our student’s homes are what sparked our Bright Futures response to technology, married with the need for internet access and food support. Working alongside our partner, Spectrum, ensured connectivity for all students and their families, utilizing Care Act funds so each student had a tablet for continuing online learning. Along with the Seamless Summer (a food distribution program) and Giving the Basics initiative (an additional food distribution program) to their daily roles, went far beyond the job description of a classroom teacher or school administrator.
Office manager of Holy Cross and Our Lady of Hope, Lillian Klein, took on a far more involved role this past year as well. “If I didn’t focus on the needs of these families, there really wasn’t going to be someone who would.” Her list, pages long, included bringing a parent a tank of fuel for their vehicle, working with the USPS to set up mailboxes and delivery so families could collect or drop off school materials, as well as helping with utility payments.
In this hybrid year, families could also make the choice to keep students home for full-time online instruction. This option added a lot of logistics to the average daily lesson plan. Holy Cross and Our Lady of Hope teachers were able to incorporate students who were learning online to be included alongside students learning in the classroom.
Kerri Ysals and Linda Anderson are shining examples of this partnership. Linda, a grandparent to Taylor, JD, and Amari, took on a full-time at-home teacher role and worked with instructor, Miss Ysals, to ensure the online learning options were still optimal for their students.
The week leading up to Christmas break, Miss Ysals brought a substitute teacher into her classroom, to take her place while she made house calls, visiting her students and joining in on the classroom Zoom from the other side of the screen.
“Being a part of a community, where teachers become loved ones, is why I want to stay so involved,” grandmother Linda Anderson tells us. “There isn’t a greater sense of certainty that families can have during a pandemic than knowing our school is listening and changing to the needs.”
Adapting and adjusting, be it technology, education, or safety, is something we all know from these past 18 months across our Bright Futures Family, and both Our Lady of Hope and Holy Cross, have continued to Shine Brightly.
By Kendra O'Sullivan
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