Editor’s note: This is just one inspiring story about people who went above and beyond to help others during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more stories about Junction City’s hometown heroes, please see Sunday's B Section.
Teachers across the country had to find new ways to teacher their students when COVID-19 forced the closure of in person teaching. In Geary County, teachers working with special needs students had to go through extra steps of how they were going to work with their students.
Deann Hunt, Adaptive Communication and Social Skills teacher at Eisenhower Elementary said that for each of her students they had to create a new plan that would lay out what needed to be done.
“When we were learning that we weren’t coming back after spring break and the governor decided to close schools, we went ahead and made packets for the students so that they had manipulatives, unifix cubes and dry erase boards and dry erase markers,” she said. “We put it all in a package, along with just different learning packets — it was all individualized for what that child was working on in school.”
She and her team were able to get the learning tools, along with school-owned computers, to each family.
“When parents came to pick up computers, they also picked up that packet from me,” she said. “So, I explained what was in the packet, how to use the manipulatives because it’s hard for parents. They haven’t been through the teaching program to see what is this even used for.”
With plans in place and tools in the hands of the families, Hunt and her team of specialists worked with parents on what was going to work best for their student.
“It was a whole team effort,” she said. “My staff, they were able to come in and see the kids and watch the kids work and encourage them. And then our speech pathologists, our social worker, our occupational therapists, they would come in and we would kind of tag team during a Zoom session. But the kids, they were rock stars through the whole thing and it was definitely a different situation than I thought I would ever be put in — but we were. With the parents help, we made it happen and I think the kids did really well compared to what I think could have happened.”
Hunt said each week she worked with parents on what they needed for their child and if it came up that they needed more learning packets or other sensory items, she would get it and one day a week, the family could go to the school and pick up those items.
“On Thursdays we would have a curbside,” she said. “That’s what we called it, because of course social distancing, and so they would just pull up we would take it out to them. The great thing about it is, we’re pretty close with our parents … so when the parents would come up and get stuff, a lot of times we could see our kiddos. I mean they couldn’t get out and we couldn’t hug them, but we would ask if we could give them a fist bump — and we at least got to wave to them and they could still see that we were in their lives. So that was huge.”
She said one family she works with doesn’t have a vehicle, so she would email back and forth with them and then would deliver the items to them.
“So, we got to kind of look through the door and wave at him,” Hunt said. “And that touched our hearts, too, because we missed the kids a ton it was just crazy — that whole thing. But anything that we could do to make their lives a little easier because it wasn’t easy for their kiddos to learn that way, we’re usually very hands on.”
She said with the move to online learning, it could have made it harder to keep the children on track if it wasn’t for the parents.
“My parents of my kiddos were rock stars because they couldn’t just put them online and leave,” she said. “You know, they had to be there with us the whole time, and our sessions were usually about 20 minutes. One thing that our students were used to during the structured teaching was used to that one on one direct instruction time for about a half hour a day. So, that was a plus that even though it was through a computer they knew that they had to work with an adult, one on one every day for approximately 30 minutes. So, it was great having their parent right there making sure they were still listening to what I was saying and staying focused and on task. Then the parents were, you know, learning how to keep their kiddo on track and on task as well. So, if it wasn’t for those parents and the dedication that they had to help their kiddo to stay with us online. It would have been very hard for their for their children.”
Hunt said with everything happening, she couldn’t help but think of the saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child.’
“That’s the first thing I thought of because parents, this put a ton on parents, and then honestly for teachers,” she said. “The district did an awesome job getting us trained on all the technology that we would need to know, getting our Schoology pages up for parents and students to use. I mean, they did awesome during that week of training for everybody, but on top of that there were colleagues that I have that were allowing other colleagues to come over so that they could learn again from somebody who understood it. So, it was just a huge community trying to make sure that we could do what we need to do for our students — and it did work.”
She had a message for parents for everything they did to help their children.
“We thank you, the parents, because without you guys it wouldn’t work,” Hunt said. “We couldn’t have done this. So, we appreciate parents, just as much, because you’re a vital role in making sure that the kiddos learn what they need to learn.”
How the 2020-21 school year will look is still in the works, but Hunt said she’s ready.
“I’m ready to rock and roll, whatever they say,” she said.