The arrival of COVID-19 and the resulting social distancing orders didn’t include a roadmap for teachers. Almost overnight, everything Arizona’s educators had planned for the week, month and possibly the remainder of the school year went out the window. But so many of these amazing professionals didn’t bat an eye – frankly they didn’t have time. They immediately got to work figuring out ways to keep our kids engaged and learning, often in the face of significant odds.

Lynette Stant is Arizona’s 2020 Teacher of the Year. Stant, who is Navajo, teaches third grade at Salt River Elementary in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. She was gracious enough to share with us an overview of what her days have been like since schools were ordered closed, as well as her Top 5 Tips for Parents, and some ways she believes others can help during this time.

Thursday, March 19, 2020 – A school day unlike any other

“We were finally able to get on campus today. Right now, our district’s plan is to maintain service to our kids in whatever way we choose, so my team and I sat down to figure out a two-week plan.”

  • Lyn Stant and her team at Salt River Elementary met at school to talk through where each of their students are at academically.
  • The group determined what each student would need to at least maintain their current level of learning.
  • This included reviewing the Individualized Education Plan (IEP) of any students who currently have one to ensure the assignments would be compliant and all accommodations could be met.
  • Lyn and her team looked at all of the resources currently available at Salt River Elementary – Grade-level readers, writing worksheets, and more.
  • The group made sure all assignments would be “home friendly,” taking into consideration the lack of available technology and internet access, ability of parents or caregivers to assist with the work, etc.
  • Packets containing two weeks of work, along with an individualized schedule, were prepared for each student.
  • Each school district adheres to rules and procedures set forth by the local governing body. In the case of Salt River Schools, this means changes in how instruction is delivered – such as posting videos on YouTube or other education platforms like Google docs or the use of Facebook videos– must be approved by the tribal education board.
  • Understanding the importance of kids self-monitoring, or holding themselves accountable, the teachers went so far as to include a pack of stickers so students could reward themselves.
  • The packets included all of the websites the teachers and kids use at school along with usernames and passwords, in case students had forgotten.
  • Finally, Lyn and her team called the home of every single student to let them know packets would be available at the breakfast pick-up the following morning.
  • For any student who wasn’t able to get the packet at breakfast pick-up, the teachers will arrange for the materials to be delivered to the child’s home.
  • What’s next? Lyn and her team are looking ahead and thinking about next-steps for their instructional packets and how best to connect with students. Salt River Schools is working diligently to ensure students receive quality academic support throughout the school closure, which means coming up with innovative and inclusive strategies to deliver curriculum and instruction efficiently, effectively, and safely. They aren’t certain yet what that looks like, but a plan will be rolled out to families soon.

“Learning at home will definitely not look like the classroom. If there is one thing I want my kids to do it is read every day. I don’t expect they’ll complete every assignment, but I really hope they read.”

Top five tips for learning at home from Arizona’s 2020 Teacher of the Year

  • Make learning part of your day: Develop a daily schedule and post it where children can see it. When children know what their day entails, it will get them in the mindset of schoolwork. Work does not have to be done all at one time; it could be spread throughout the day.
  • Be flexible: Your child is going through this COVID-19 experience along with the world. If your child is not up to working, it’s ok. Allow them to choose an activity of their choice. Set a timer, and then try again to engage them in the work.
  • Play: Play is part of your child’s development so make it part of their day. Let them have some sunshine (being respectful of social distancing of course). Engage them in family board games or family inside games. For Kindergarten and younger check out JBrary on YouTube. These are songs and interactive movements for young students.
  • Read: Make reading part of their day. This one thing will academically help them the most. Reading can look like books, online reading websites, comics, newspapers, magazines, or even the directions on the back of a cake box J
  • Write: Writing is a great way for self-expression. Writing can also start with just a Doodle. Check out this YouTube video.

Looking for ways to support your local school? Lyn has some great suggestions

  1. Reach out to school district offices to find out where help is needed.
  2. Look online at DonorsChoose. Teachers often post specific classroom funding or special project costs there.
  3. Donate to food banks – “That’s where our students’ families are going.”
  4. Check in on your child’s teachers. See how they are doing. Let them know you appreciate “In just a matter of days they have had to change their whole mode of teaching.”
  5. Support others any way you can. A note. A phone call. “I’m a parent, too. We all have to do our part.”

What teachers want their students to know

“Your teachers are thinking about you, we have not forgotten you. We miss our classrooms and our routines. We are spending every moment of our days thinking about ways we can support you.” – Lyn Stant