Just over a year ago, schools came to an abrupt halt, retooled, and carried on. Our teachers had to turn on a dime and completely change how to provide our students “Something Better.” Everyone thought things would be back to normal by Fall.
And some form of normalcy did return. Teachers and students met together in the classroom or virtually depending on the circumstances in their community. Teachers meeting in person had the added responsibility of cleaning and disinfecting the classroom, taking temperatures, ensuring masks were on and social distancing measures were followed. In spite of the added responsibilities, our teachers still provided “Something Better” in spite of the obstacles they faced. Here are a few of their stories.
At Springs Adventist Academy in Colorado, teacher Michelle Velbis looked for ways to engage the six young men in her classroom. Consequently, she arranged for an outdoor education field trip to the Catamount Institute in Colorado Springs. They spent the day building forts, bird watching, hiking, playing in a stream, building windmills, and learning about renewable resources. Some of the students had never built forts outside before.
“Building the shelter and learning some survival skills was my favorite part of the field trip,” commented a seventh-grader. Velbis observed that “being out in nature and reinforcing our science and Bible lessons was such a blessing. During this time of COVID-19 and other stressful events, it felt right to let the young people find some reprieve from all of that and soak up God’s creation.”
Matt Daarud, teacher at Summit View Adventist School in Iowa, challenged his students to adopt a community service project. One student suggested that they participate in a food drive. Research showed that one in seven families in the Kansas City area currently experience food insecurity and so the students decided that this would be their project. The Home and School leader found out about the Bless KC Food Collection, and the students decided to participate in that food drive. The leader brought 10 grocery bags and distributed them to the students to hand out in their communities.
However, the entire school body “caught the vision” and began collecting grocery bags of food donated by neighbors, family and friends. Within two weeks, grocery sacks covered the school lobby. Exactly 126 sacks were delivered to the drop-off point. The students at Summit View were delighted that their efforts in being the hands and feet of Jesus were a blessing to many.
Teacher Debra Eszler reported that several months ago, a fourth-grader at Brentwood Adventist Christian School in North Dakota, made a prayer request for the soon return of Jesus. The other students agreed and that request has remained on the prayer request board ever since. During this time of COVID-19, many of the school’s traditional outreach activities have been curtailed, but that hasn’t stopped the students from looking forward to Christ’s soon return nor dampened their desire to invite others to know Jesus as their Savior.
Students chose seniors in the church to write letters to and encourage. Many seniors have written back. One student even asked if they could write their person from home, too! The students also participated in a food drive. Brentwood keeps their focus on Rev. 22:20: “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!”
Carlene Lang’s students at Chadron’s Prairie View Adventist school in Nebraska distributed 45 Random Acts of Kindness bags in the community. The students wore masks and were greeted with fist bumps, handshakes and smiles from the recipients. Students wrote an encouraging message on the bag and put a hot chocolate packet, cup, spoon and napkin inside.
Minnesota teachers have also gone above and beyond. Many were teaching in a hybrid environment with some students at school and some online. This could change from week to week as students were either exposed to or became ill with COVID-19. Teachers have been flexible and understanding, giving extra time to complete assignments and working alongside students to ensure success.
Technology was embraced to facilitate instruction and collection of assignments. Since traditional field trips were not possible, virtual field trips were planned. Worships and Weeks of Prayer were conducted via Zoom, since it was important to limit onsite guests.
Grades 5-8 students at Wichita Adventist Christian Academy in Kansas celebrated Veterans’ Day last fall by creating and presenting to the whole class informational posters about Veterans’ Day. Teacher Heidi Grecian says the students ‘were very eager to learn about what the day signifies, who it honors and how it came to be. They created some really nice posters and spent the day honoring our veterans.”
The science unit on the circulatory system came to life for fifth- and sixth-grade students in Paul Bragaw’s “can-do” themed classroom at HMS Richards School in Colorado when they dissected lamb hearts. For many, this was their first experience with dissection.
Zachary, a fifth-grader, thought that “it was going to be disgusting and I was afraid I was going to faint. But, when we cut it open, it wasn’t so bad, and it was cool that we could actually touch it and move it, so we could understand our hearts better.” Bragaw finds it important to include a variety of hands-on activities because he sees that they capture the students’ attention and make them excited to learn. “Students were in awe of how God has created the body, especially the heart,” he said.
Michelle Flores, sixth grade teacher at College View Academy in Nebraska, brought pen pals into the age of technology. Instead of writing to students in another part of the country or world, her students were zooming with their new “Zoom Pals.”Mrs. Flores had a connection at an English Institute in Argentina. The sixth graders enjoyed zooming with pals in Argentina who could practice their English skills with their new friends at College View Academy.
We want to recognize that even though our teachers have done so well and have made our school systems shine, it has not been without cost. Our teachers are exhausted—physically, mentally, and emotionally. However, throughout it all, they have sought to continue to provide “Something Better” for their students. Please pray for the strength of all to be renewed this summer, and for a safe and healthy return to school in the fall.
What Students Are Saying
Students across Dakota recently shared their thoughts about their school. Here are a few:
“I love Hillcrest because it teaches me about God. Hillcrest makes learning very fun. God wants to be with us. He loves us a lot! I also get to see my 1st to 4th grade friends. I also enjoy recess and lunch because I can visit with my friends. That’s why Hillcrest is a great place to go to school.” – 4th Grade Student
“When I first came to this school I had a bad attitude and was not used to Christian schools. I also had a hard time getting along with others and making friends. I did not like handwriting. Over the years, my attitude has gotten better and better. Now I’m getting along with others and I’m making more and more friends. God has changed me ever since I came to Brentwood.” – 8th Grade Student
“Sioux Falls Adventist School is a fun and safe environment for me and all my fellow peers. . . God has impacted my life through the school when we were giving things to the kids with disabilities. I enjoyed making the blankets and buying gifts for the kids. Some of the things that were fun at school were the last day of school, like going to the Omaha Zoo and the school picnic. Mrs. Shumaker has been the only teacher I ever have had and she is amazing.” – 6th Grade Student