LAKE CRYSTAL, Minn. (KEYC) — The next recipient of the Golden Apple award isn’t one teacher this time around, but rather all of the staff at Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial Elementary.
A phrase you may have heard lately is ‘we’re in this together,’ and students and staff at Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial have taken this phrase to heart as they tackle distance learning.
The Golden Apple award doesn’t go to just one teacher, but all of the staff adapting and working to ensure students get the education they deserve.
“I’m so proud of how well they’re doing through this and how much of the effort they’re putting forth. I also just want to say how proud I am of our staff and that’s all of our staff. Just the whole community has come together in supporting each other as we go through this,” Principal Dan Beert said.
Virtual learning isn’t a new concept at Lake Crystal Wellcome Memorial.
Fifth-grade students had already been familiarized with some of their reading programs through plans put in place for virtual snow day learning.
“So they’re really clipping along pretty well and they know what to do, where to go and they know what their assignments are already because we’ve been doing the same thing all year. We have to cut back a little bit on what we’re doing in the classroom, so that’s a little bit tough, but mostly on our end I’m sure the kids don’t care if we’re cutting back a little bit,” says fifth-grade teacher Karla Caldwell.
Before distance learning began, some families were without internet, but the staff worked to ensure families got free Wi-Fi. A feat taken up by the district’s only tech coordinator, whose role also expanded to delivering food or other items to families.
“We’re a pretty rural district, so some of our families can’t get that internet service out to their house. So then the district went out and got hotspots for those families making sure that they have enough bandwidth to their sites to support screening video,” says director of technology Jacob Quade.
Educators and staff at LCWM Elementary don’t view themselves as having just one role.
“It’s not ‘this is my job, that’s their job,’ it’s like whatever needs to get done we do. So the biggest thing I feel like for the whole community is it’s not just what one person’s job is it’s just we all try to chip in and try to do the best we can,” says Beert.
Teachers are also keeping students engaged with virtual google meetings every day and have found that students are still eager to see each other and interact.
“We mostly use it as a community-building time, so they’ll sit there and read books to each other or a kid will lead the whole class in a workout or something just fun to keep them engaged and feel like they still have a community,” says third-grade teacher Emily Fast.
They're also applying fun activities students would also perhaps do in the classroom.
“We did a scavenger hunt the other day with the students, so they had to go find something in their house that kind of got them engaged right away and hooked with us in the morning. Or yesterday we did ‘would you rather’ questions, so kind of just to get them primed for learning to get them excited,” says fifth-grade teacher Jenna Johnson, a previous Golden Apple recipient.
At the heart of LCWM’s success is each and every one of its staff who’ve adapted to the changing times to ensure students get the resources they need.
“We’re all trying to adapt and try to figure out how can I help these people with different needs. Even though that’s not my role necessarily as to go deliver food, but I think as we’re all trying to be flexible with our different roles and we’re all just one unified staff rather than each teacher, paraprofessional, we’re all trying to meet those individual needs of those families,” says school counselor Caleb Fiala.
Despite being separated by virtual space, teachers still work to provide a backbone of support to students in any way they can.
“They’re figuring it out. Probably better than the rest of us. We do a lot of high fives and virtual hugs when we leave our meetings,” says Caldwell.