March 25, 2020 Academics

Local educators discuss the transition to online learning following school closures

In January 2020, students at Liberty Elementary dig up fossils

Students and teachers in Siouxland suddenly found themselves out of the classroom as they bid farewell to their students a few weeks ago with very little notice.

Schools nationwide are shutting down, some temporarily and some for the remainder of the school year, hoping to slow the spread of the new coronavirus, COVID-19.

“We left on Friday not knowing anything,” said Sioux City Community School District teacher, Courtney Siebold. “We were all ready to come back on Monday and it wasn’t until Sunday night at like, 9:30 that we were like “oh wow, we are not coming to school tomorrow.”

Kids who would normally be learning in a classroom are now finding themselves at home. But teachers are making sure their students continue learning, by taking education online.

Seibold teaches 3rd grade at Liberty Elementary School in Sioux City. Her 23 students and their parents can now connect with her on Facebook through a group she has created just for them.

“From those Facebook pages, we are sending out anything we find and then our Principals are taking everything that we share and sharing it on our Liberty Elementary Facebook page,” Seibold said. “Our main goal is our students and that means we need to come together to make sure we are taking care of our students.”

In Homer, it’s similar. Alicia McPartland and Emma Caskey both teach junior and senior high classes. They created Facebook pages for their students to connect as well.

“As long as we can put those enrichment activities and resources for parents and kids to use while we are closed for the time being, I think that looks different for every family and every situation and every kid and every parent,” Caskey said.

“It doesn’t have to be reading, writing, math, and science,” McPartland said. “We cooked food yesterday. I taught Ainsley how to make pancakes. It’s spending time together and doing something.”

Now, these activities they are posting aren’t graded lessons, but enrichment activities to encourage learning while also having fun.

“There’s not a right way to do this. There’s not a wrong way to do this,” Caskey said. “As long as we are giving each other a lot of grace and giving our students grace and giving everybody grace, we are going to be okay. We just have to walk through this the best that we can and do what we know, which is getting resources out to kids.”

For these three educators, it isn’t just about teaching, but making sure their students are okay, too.

“We care about our students and we don’t know if they are going to get those meals or at home, if they have a secure life,” Seibold said. “So seeing them every day was our way of checking in. It goes beyond getting them academic help. It goes to taking care of them, their hearts and their needs like shelter and food.”

View the full article by Katie Copple on KMEG.