When kindergarten teacher Shannon Prescott first heard about COVID, she thought it was a virus that other countries were dealing with at the time. There were no reports of it in the United States when she wished her students farewell as they embarked on their spring break.
Those students would never return to the classroom that school year.
“There were and still are many times that I feel like I am in a movie or dream that isn’t real,” Prescott said.
School closures were announced the week following spring break last March. Like other schools, Benton Academy faculty members were sent into overdrive on how to finish the academics for the remainder of the school year.
Prescott, who has been a teacher for over two decades, knew it would be incredibly difficult for her to virtually connect with her students. The foundation of reading, writing and counting are crucial during the early childhood years, and kindergarten is a challenging grade to instruct through a screen and not in person.
“I realized that I would have to teach in a way that I had never taught in my 25-year career,” Prescott said. “My students would have to learn in a new way as well. We all had adjustments to make that were unprecedented.”
But Prescott succeeded despite the challenges. Her students connected over the course of several weeks via Zoom meetings and other virtual outlets. Consideration was given for working parents and busy schedules, so Prescott went above and beyond with recorded lessons that could be visited and revisited on personal time.
“I filmed myself reviewing and teaching new skills and sent the videos to the parents,” she said. “That way the parents could show the videos at a time that was convenient for them, and they could show the videos more than once if necessary. I also sent links to free educational videos that would reinforce skills the students had learned.”
The students were even given impromptu birthday parties.
“I still continued to use Zoom meetings, but I used them for more of a relaxed and social typesetting,” Prescott said. “We would meet for sharing in a show and tell type way, for wishing students a happy birthday if their birthday fell in the quarantine time frame, and for just getting to see and talk to each other.”
The school doors may have been closed. But Prescott’s class was sprinting full speed ahead with their education and friendships.
Prescott admits there were challenges, particularly with kindergarten students, which often requires a lot of person-to-person interaction and instruction. But there were a few blessings in disguise.
“I was very blessed that I was able to still get to see them from time to time in Zoom meetings and in their cars when they were picking up assignment packets,” Prescott said. “I was also blessed to be able to give them a virtual graduation, where I announced their end of the year awards and called their name out as graduates. I got to see every child on the last assignment pick-up day and take a picture of them wearing their caps and gowns.”
Prescott said she has to thank her students and their parents for the successful end of last school year in the midst of COVID.
“I know that many of my parents were still working during this time, and they still made sure that their child stayed on track,” she said. “I am so proud of all of my students and their parents. This year gave new meaning to the idea that we are all in this together when educating children.”