“We are separated by distance but still connected by heart,” said Chelsea Chappell, Bradley Elementary School kindergarten teacher.
“Keep smiling. We’re all in this together,” said Stacy Lee, Eisenhower Elementary School second-grade teacher.
“You all have brave hearts and resilient souls. That means you are strong and never give up,” said Jackie Boarman, MacArthur Elementary School first-grade teacher.
These were just some of the messages the staff and faculty from the Unified School District 207 elementary schools shared with their students to create a sense of connection in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We are a close community, and we need to connect with one another more than ever,” said Michaela Culkin, Bradley principal. “None of us thought that we wouldn’t see our students after spring break, and this was a great chance to connect with our students and send our families encouragement.”
The videos were made up of photo and video messages by faculty and staff of the elementary schools, which were then sent out to families via Skyward and other mediums.
Bradley’s video was completed first. Tiffany Kirkland, Bradley sixth-grade teacher, said she got the idea from a similar video her son’s high school made.
“I know that we as a staff miss our students so much, and that they miss seeing us, too,” Kirkland said. “We spend so much time together during the year and are a constant to our students. Going from seeing each other every day to not seeing each other at all, it is a shock.
“COVID-19 and the shelter in-place order have been emotional experiences for students and staff. Although we are still teaching our students online, we aren’t able to see them, give them hugs, celebrate their successes and help guide them when they need assistance,” she said. “Teaching on a military installation, it is very likely that we won’t get to see some of our students again before they move on to their next school. I wanted to make sure they would have something to look at and remember how much their Bradley teachers and staff truly care about each of them.”
Eisenhower’s video was completed April 16 and not only included pictures and messages, but also the song Eisenhower music teacher Stephanie Schwartz composed for the school.
“We wanted our students to know not only do we miss them, but we know they are strong and can and will make it through this difficult time,” said Cindy Wepking, Eisenhower principal. “We want them to remember we are still an Eisenhower family and how awesome we know they are.”
MacArthur’s video was completed April 22 with a special emphasis on Month of the Military Child.
“Last year, we had a ‘cheer tunnel’ where we lined the hallways coming into the school with staff and parents and cheered for the students as they entered the building letting them know we were here for them,” said Tyler Fowler, MacArthur principal. “We were going to do something similar this year, but bigger and better than last year. Obviously, we can’t do that, so we thought we’d do a video instead.”
Kylie Waite, MacArthur instructional impact coach, put together the video, which featured several motivational songs including the MacArthur theme song.
“We all miss our Mustang family,” Waite said. “Just because we are all virtually interacting now doesn’t mean we can’t still bring the MOMC celebration to our families.
MacArthur Elementary School Vice Principal Michael Burrow pretends to fish in the school pond for his part in a video April 21 at the school. To celebrate Month of the Military Child, MacArthur staff members made a video with assembled recorded messages and posters to let MacArthur students know they miss seeing them. Bradley and Eisenhower Elementary Schools also assembled similar videos.
“(MacArthur staff’s) hearts are always in the right place for our students, and I know if we could go back to our buildings with our students, we would all be there without a doubt,” she said. “The compassion our teachers have for our students is tremendous. They’ve put everything behind them to be able to make distance learning feel as comfortable for our students and families as they can. We love our school family, we love our students and our military families.”