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Staying Connected: Your Stories - April 23, 2020

Connections in Education during the Coronavirus Crisis

As educators navigate unprecedented obstacles with limited resources and guaranteed uncertainty, New York State educators lead the nation in their acceptance of this challenge. Throughout our state, administrators, teachers, and school personnel have demonstrated their extraordinary dedication, support, and commitment to their students and our children. From teacher parades for students to food and technology deliveries for families, New York’s educators have risen to this challenge! The New York State Education Department wishes to highlight the exceptional dedication of our educators with examples of emotional support, equitable solutions, and instructional practices utilized to stay connected with the students of New York State during this period of building closures. Read more below for stories that have been shared with us recently, or, if you have your own stories to share, please visit our Submit Your Stories page for additional information. 

Greece Central School District's Video Challenge

Greece Central School District Superintendent Kathleen Graupman issued a video challenge for the entire Greece community to share the unique ways they are staying connected and being kind even though we can’t be together right now. Dozens of people accepted the challenge and shared videos and social media posts showing how they are connecting with their Greece school family and remaining positive. Videos and photos continue to be shared via email and social media. Superintendent Graupman shares some of her favorites in her weekly update to staff and families. 

Byron-Bergen 5th and 6th Graders 3-D Print Personal Protective Equipment

If a health care worker puts on a face shield inscribed with the words “Heroes wear scrubs, not capes,” it might have been designed by a Byron-Bergen 5th or 6th grader. STEAM Lab Teacher Craig Schroth recently dropped off 100 face shields designed and donated by students to Face Shields ROC, an organization collecting face shields to distribute to medical facilities and first responders in the Rochester area.

Before Byron-Bergen Elementary School closed its doors in March, Schroth was granted permission to move the District’s three 3-D printers to his home to avoid a backlog of printing student work when school recommenced. Three weeks later, he proposed a new project to his students.

“Many health care workers are short on personal protective equipment at hospitals and health care facilities,” said Schroth. “One thing that people are doing to help is using 3-D printers to print face shields. I wanted to give our students an opportunity to get involved with this project.” 

"I was glad to have the chance to thank these health workers by giving them a nice message that would brighten their day."
5th Grader Rena Wilson

Schroth invited students to add a positive message to the basic face shield design. Using the skills they gained while designing keychains and jack-o-lanterns in class, and guidance from Schroth via email, students worked on their designs from their homes. They submitted their finished files electronically and Schroth printed them on the 3-D printers now in his basement.

Fifth grade student Rena Wilson has submitted 55 designs with a goal of designing 100. "I was glad to have the chance to thank these health workers by giving them a nice message that would brighten their day."

“I’m very proud of our students for their enthusiasm in this project,” said Byron-Bergen Elementary Principal Brian Meister. “Mr. Schroth has shown amazing initiative in not only stepping up to produce needed resources for the medical community but creating a meaningful experience for his students. They will not forget this. Neither will the recipients of these unique face shields.”

As more designs are submitted, Schroth will continue to print and deliver the face shields on behalf of his students.

Innovative Instruction: Bringing Sign Language to Online Lessons

The sudden shift to virtual instruction has forced educators everywhere to leverage online tools and innovation to ensure they reach students effectively Patricia Compton, an itinerant teacher of the deaf with Southern Westchester BOCES, offers an inspiring example. Ms. Compton, works with students in component school districts. At Harrison Avenue School, she collaborated with teacher Jennifer Horowitz to deliver video lessons to students who use sign language. It isn’t simply virtual instruction that presents a challenge to students who are deaf, Ms. Compton said, but rather the delivery of video lessons, particularly if the student isn’t yet reading or the videos are not captioned. Inserting an interpreter into videos would make them more inclusive.

Ms. Horowitz recorded a video of herself reading a story and talking to her class. She then sent the video to Ms. Compton, who used the Google Chrome browser extension Loom to add herself interpreting Ms. Horowitz’s video using American Sign Language. “I was able to figure out how to add sign language interpreting so the student in her class who is deaf could access any video she or the school psychologist sent to the class,” Ms. Compton explained. “I then passed that knowledge onto the sign language interpreter in the class so she could do this for the rest of the time we are teaching remotely.”

She also shared the idea with district and BOCES administrators, in case there were applications in other instructional settings. One potential application she sees could be allowing a teacher to mark up materials presented on screen while delivering a lesson. “We have been using Loom to add a 'bubble' to all my videos so that my deaf students can see all the signing for what is said in the video,” Ms. Horowitz said. “(Ms. Compton) has been a tremendous resource this year!”

The next challenge they intended to tackle is to provide live interpreting when meeting with students online.

Community Schools Coordinator Ensures Delivery of Emergency Food Boxes 

With schools closed and unemployment rising, Community Schools Coordinator Kelly Sperduto (right) knew students and families in Greece would require more than the traditional meals program to stay physically and mentally healthy during COVID-19 closure. Sperduto is one of many unsung heroes of this crisis and is spearheading the Greece Central School District’s efforts to provide a variety of assistance to people in need.

By enlisting the help of district transportation staff, couriers, and volunteers, Sperduto coordinates the delivery of 140 emergency food boxes each week. She also partners with community organizations to assist needy families who need help paying bills, securing childcare, or finding a place to live during this difficult time.

“She’s been instrumental in connecting the dots and rallying donations of time, talent, and money,” said Assistant Superintendent for Family and Community Engagement Valerie Paine.

Sperduto and the district’s Community Engagement Team most recently secured donations from service organizations including Rotary, Kiwanis, and the Lions Club as well as individual donors to provide 150 Easter baskets for Greece's children.

Submit Your Own Stories

We encourage you to share your story. Your story might be a one-page account, a video, or even pictures showing us how your school, your students, and your community are staying connected. Please visit our Submit Your Story page for additional information.