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Teachers get creative in connecting with students

Teachers get creative in connecting with students Teachers get creative in connecting with students

Guest speakers have always been an important tool for teachers in traditional classroom settings.

First grade teacher Krissy Bunkelman at Medford Area Elementary School (MAES) adapted the idea to the world of online learning as she worked to keep connected with her students during the school closures forced by the COVID-19 pandemic and “safer at home” school closures.

“In the past weeks, teachers have been frantic to find new ways to teach from home, but more importantly, connect with their students,” Bunkelman said.

Like many teachers, Bunkelman began hosting video conference calls for her students. “It was heartwarming to have that face-to-face contact with them during such uncertain times,” she said.

“These calls became part of my weekly schedule where we can socialize and address thoughts and concerns from our classroom families,” she said. Not one to let it stop there, she soon began brainstorming additional ways to personalize this experience and give it 'the classroom feel.' “She said she pitched the idea of hosting MAES guest speakers on live conference calls.

“I received a lot of great responses and feedback from our staff,” she said. “Currently we have ten different staff members who have agreed to sign on as guest speakers. These speakers will join in on our private classroom links where they can converse with students and share a 'spotlight' segment.”

So far some of these segments include: reading a book, practicing mindfulness, at home exercises, a nature walk, science experiments, an in-home scavenger hunt, how to cook, shared naval experiences, and how to care for pets. Bunkelman said there are many more ideas to come.

“I piloted this idea with our gym teacher, Ms. O’Flanagan. Students lit up when talking with her and were quick to join in on the physical activity she planned,” Bunkelman said.

“I am looking forward to hosting more guest speakers and connecting with staff to provide face-to-face contact and interactions for our students,” she said.

For Jena O’Flanagan, who teaches physical education at MAES and Stetsonville Elementary School the transition to teaching online has been a challenge but she was quick to add that a “a challenge can be a great thing.”

“Teaching physical education online to elementaryaged students has been hard but also has given me an opportunity to grow as an educator and push my limits,” she said.

“I have failed miserably but also have had great success while trying to navigate unknown waters,” she said.

As far as working with Bunkelman’s first graders, O’Flanagan said she loved being able to interact with the students while teaching again.

“The best part of my job is building relationships with my kids and interacting with them everyday,” she said. “That has been the hardest part about teaching from home but I was able to get a little piece of that back through video conferencing with the kids.”

She said they played a game called Fit Dice. “It was priceless being able to remind my students to keep moving and be active to keep their minds and bodies healthy. Nothing can beat having that live connection with your students,” O’Flanagan said.