JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Due to the coronavirus pandemic, parents, students and teachers are still adjusting to the new “norm” of at-home learning.
But, the abrupt change for one group of students was made easier, thanks to the swift actions of their teachers.
Students in the special education program at Valley View are adapting to these huge changes through not only technology, but by the thoughtful gestures of some of their teachers.
“It’s been a little depressing," said Valley View High School special education teacher Kelly Green. "I’m so used to having them all day long, they make me want to come to school, and not being able to see them everyday has really been hard on my heart.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on teachers and the way that they are able to connect with their students.
“I know they’re with their parents,” said Green. “But are they working? Are they engaging with people? Are they doing the things that they would normally do at school.”
For Green, not getting to see her students every day has been a challenge.
But, it didn't take long for her to find a way to connect with her students.
“I had to do something,” said Green. “So that Monday, we text or email, or even called the parents and said okay, for the ones that I don’t know their favorite things, give me some of their favorite things.”
Green, along with her paraprofessionals, and her “Blazer Bunch,” have been dropping of care packages at her special education student’s homes.
“We make sure that they get a handwritten letter every week,” said Green. “Just saying hi, how are you? How’s your family? Hope you’re doing well. That little touch, that personal touch, that’s making a big difference with my kids.”
“He gets excited every time,” said Beth Bryant, a mom of a student in the program. “What he knows, is they bring gifts and he definitely recognizes everyone’s face, even with a mask on, and grins really big. I know he misses everybody at school and these are not only his teachers, but, his friends, so it really means a lot to see their faces.”
Maintaining that connection with their students is just one aspect of what teachers are doing to keep their students engaged.
“We’re having to be very creative in our ways that we deliver our instruction, and also in the ways that we positively motivate them,” said special education teacher at Valley View Intermediate school Angela Smith.
She said they’ve been using several different methods to make instruction possible.
“We have paper packets that we’ve been mailing, or having the parents pick up work that addresses their IEP goals, and then also we have our technology,” said Smith.
Students have been utilizing apps, reading books online, and using a website called MobyMax, that allows teachers to keep up with their progress.
“It was very individualized,” said Smith. “There was no one-size-fits-all, and it continues to be no one-size-fits-all. We also had to address their related services, their occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, independent living skills, adaptive behavior skills, and, and we really individualize that with tasks and activities.”
The tasks consist of things such as washing the dishes or preparing breakfast.
“Because, ultimately, what we’re trying to provide for our students is the ability to care, and live, and learn on their own,” said Smith. “And, use their skills in real life and, it doesn’t get much more real than this.”
Special education students have also been able to get extra services such as occupational therapy, speech therapy and physical therapy virtually, to continue to work on their skills.