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Staying Connected: Your Stories - June 18, 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.

Moving-Up Day, Cheektowaga Middle School

Cheektowaga Central School District

My name is Brenda Christopher and I am a Special Education Teacher at Cheektowaga Middle School. I co-teach several 8th grade ELA classes with my partner, Jill Orlowski. One HUGE event for our 8th graders is their “Moving Up Day,” a ceremony during which we recognize their accomplishments and celebrate their moving up to 9th grade.  Due to the pandemic, that too has been canceled. Some students had already bought their suits and dresses and would not get to wear them, and had been been voicing their disappointment. In an effort to still celebrate them and give them the opportunity to wear their new outfits, we organized a “Drive Up Moving Up Day.” Parents and their families drove up to the parking lot where they were greeted with balloons and music. Principal Handford announced the students’ names as they exited their vehicles to take a quick picture in front of our main entrance. Some students decorated their cars too!  The one picture of the balloon with the “5 B’s” is the character traits we teach at our school: Be on time and ready, be kind, be safe, be responsible, and be respectful.  After their picture was taken, students received a certificate of completion along with a “swag bag” complete with a “2020, the year I was QUARANTAUGHT” t-shirt, candy, and bags of chips. 

While this has been difficult, my partner and I work tirelessly to provide the best education to our students that we can. We look forward to returning to school when it's safe, and seeing the faces that depend on us.

Lean On Me 

Nyack Public Schools

Staying connected during a global pandemic has become an extra-challenging task, but also a work of love, in our close-knit community. One way that the faculty has responded to this challenge has been to create outreach videos that provide positive messages, encouraging tips, reminders and resources for students and their families. These initiatives build community, show support, promote social-emotional learning, and remind students how much we care. We are Nyack-Strong.

Tecumseh Elementary Teacher Organizes Getty Museum Art Challenge

Tecumseh Elementary School and Eastern Suffolk BOCES

Tecumseh Elementary School Art Teacher Loriann Christian collaborated with colleagues in the Art Department across Eastern Suffolk BOCES to create a lesson to get students involved in the Getty Museum's Art Challenge. This activity soared to instant popularity on the internet where quarantined folks recreated masterpieces featured in the famous museum’s online collection using ordinary household items. Tecumseh is an Eastern Suffolk BOCES school that provides services to students with special education needs.

Christian and a colleague co-authored the lesson, which she shared with her students using an online student engagement platform suited for distance learning. She provided information about the museum, instructed students to visit it online, choose their favorite piece of art, and then recreate it using anything at their disposal from home. To provide an example, Christian recreated King Tut’s Golden Mask by dressing up as the pharaoh himself.

Christian was thrilled at how well all the students incorporated everyday objects into the task. However, what surprised her most was the positive responses she received from parents. “So many of them emailed me to say that the challenge was a wonderful family activity,” she said. “Students and family members took it upon themselves to recreate multiple images, which went beyond the scope of the assignment.”

Pictures, clockwise from top left:

  • Isabella, Longwood CSD, sixth grade, recreated The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Matheo, Bay Shore UFSD, second grade, recreated Homage to Bonnard by Fernando Botero with the help of his father, who served as the model.
  • Giovanni, Longwood CSD, second grade, recreated Royalty Dog by Romero Britto.
  • Aiden, Comsewogue UFSD, third grade, recreated Jeanne (Spring) by Édouard Manet.

High School and College Counselors Unite During Unsettling Times

Nassau County

A turn of events took place as the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic hit Long Island, New York. School counselors and administrators formerly unfamiliar with online communication became savvy out of necessity. School counselors worked together to “figure it out” and deliver counseling services to their students with the support of the following network, established to help the helpers.

Anastasia Kokonis (Program Coordinator, Guidance Technology & School Counselor Support Services, Nassau BOCES) began collaboration with Gina Christel (President, Nassau County Counselors’ Association) and Mary Harrison (Nassau County Directors of Guidance), offering the “Open Forum for School Counselors.” By popular demand it is being offered weekly. 

The Forum offers school counselors the opportunity to share ideas, best practices, and challenges during this pandemic. It has also been requested that the meetings continue once schools re-open and for the 2020-2021 school year.

The Open Forum for School Counselors offers school counselors the opportunity to share ideas, best practices, and challenges during this pandemic.

Guest speakers have participated, offering ‘chair yoga’, a segment on mindfulness, as well as a panel from local and out-of-state colleges to address current issues senior students are facing, and insights on the current state of college admission testing, social emotional learning, and summer school. Upcoming topics include financial aid and future college admission testing.  

For additional information please contact Anastasia Kokonis at

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.