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Schools adapt to keep students engaged

A month into the school year principals and teachers are finding new ways to connect with their students and honor their hard work despite not meeting in person.

“I would say that there are many things that we do differently since moving to a distance-learning format. How we interact with parents, how we support struggling students and, most importantly, how we encourage and engage with our students,” said King Elementary School Principal Jason Schrock.

For Schrock and the other local principals in the Clark County School District, the 2020-21 school year started with all classes online through distance learning.

One of the things he said he recently adapted was the student of the month award. Since students couldn’t be recognized in person in their classes, Schrock organized a parade where they and their families would drive through and be honored by the school staff.

“The goal for me as a school leader has always been to recognize the hard work and dedication of our students and to encourage other students to take up similar attitudes and behaviors,” he said. “What I found over the years is that many students responded to the awards and prizes while others responded to the recognition that they received in front of their peers. Moving to a distance-learning environment, we’ve really had to think about how to provide that same level of peer-to-peer or public recognition. The idea of a parade seemed like one of the best ways to publicly recognize our students.”

Garrett Junior High School Principal Melanie Teemant said she and her staff are also working on new ways to recognize student achievement.

“We are developing a virtual student of the month program and student recognition focus for things like perfect attendance, no missing assignments and positive behavior when we see students who are being kind and working hard,” she said. “We continue to miss the kids so much and until there is news of when we can expect them to fill the school with laughter and their voices … we are so happy to see their faces when they join us every day.”

Amy Wagner, principal of Boulder City High School, said she and her staff are working to make sure all the students feel like Boulder City Eagles, “even from a distance.”

“Our journey with distance learning has been evolving and has changed as we navigate it,” she said. “We have surveyed our students and parents about their perspectives with distance learning, outlining their successes and their struggles. We shared this information with our faculty so that our students can be successful. We are reaching out to students who have had trouble connecting and are doing home visits as well. We are thinking outside the box to connect with students from a distance with virtual spirit weeks and social media.”

Since the schools started distance learning, staff members have also had to adjust how and when they do their online teaching in order to maximize engagement and involvement.

“There have definitely been adjustments we’ve made as distance learning has gone on, and I expect we will continue to make adjustments as these progress,” said Ben Day, principal of Mitchell Elementary School. “In kindergarten, for example, we’ve consolidated the time that children are online with their teachers into one larger learning block as opposed to multiple, smaller learning blocks based on what we saw during the first week or two.”

Day said they are also looking for new ways to have students participate in their special classes like physical education, music, art and library and to accommodate families who have challenging schedules.

“Just like anything else we do, it’s important for us to listen to families and do what we can to create win-win solutions during distance learning, so we’ll continue to make adjustments as needed,” he said.

Teemant said the staff at Garrett is focusing on building relationships and developing the school culture they have when they are together.

“We continue to fine-tune the schedule and the delivery of the instruction as we get feedback from our community and students,” she said. “Teachers feel like they are getting into a routine and can focus more on the curriculum and instruction rather than the new technology programs like Canvas.”

Contact reporter Celia Shortt Goodyear at cgoodyear@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9401. Follow her on Twitter @csgoodyear.

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