Delivering meals to needy families and beaming into students' homes with storybook readings and “dance parties,” NYSUT members are stepping up in extraordinary ways to reach out to students during this time of crisis.
"I’ve had a lot of students checking in on Zoom each day,” said Watervliet school counselor Chelsie Clickner. “It is definitely a tough time for them but we are trying to make things fun. We’ve taken Zoom grocery shopping, had a few dance parties and talked about what we are worried about and how to get support while we are away from school. It’s not ideal but these kids are amazing and working very hard!"
Watervliet Teachers Asociation Co-President Jeanne Lance has been overwhelmed by the response from her members to remain connected with students and families. Teachers and school counselors are checking in with students and parents via phone calls, email and through Google meets and Google hangouts. They’re leading online exercise classes, posting virtual field trips and nature walks. P.E. teachers put together a March challenge to keep kids moving.
“We’ve had tremendous support from our administration and our community,” Lance said. Area businesses sent pizza and barbecue early in the week to schools as educators worked feverishly in teams on Monday and Tuesday to quickly distribute chromebooks and other learning materials. Teachers in grade 3-12 worked together to plan and share online activities and resources. Kindergarten through grade 2 teachers and other school staff prepared learning packets, then delivered them to students’ homes via school bus.
"It was great to see the kids and parents!” said Watervliet kindergarten teacher Kara Cunningham. “We answered any questions people had about getting materials and what the school was offering. We were very happy to help our families and it was fun, too."
“I loved being able to do it,” said Becky Cioffi, another kindergarten teacher. “We definitely work with the most dedicated individuals."
Local union leaders around the state reported similar efforts to get kids the learning materials, support and food they need.
Laura Franz, president of Albany Public Schools Teachers Association, wasn’t sure what to expect when she posted an online sign-up sheet looking for volunteers to package and distribute meals for needy students. “The response was amazing,” Franz said. “Within a few hours we filled more than 300 two-hour slots.”
The crisis has highlighted the vital role our public schools play in communities around the state.
“We’re the safety net for so many of our students,” Franz said, noting the district is continuing to supply weekend backpacks of food and other supplies. “In the coming days we know the needs are going to increase – but everyone wants to do whatever they can to be there for our kids.”
This new Rochester Teachers Association video highlights Priscilla Street and Sue Lavonas and how they are providing for their students from School #2 in these ever changing times.