On the first day of her junior year in high school, Amy Nelson’s daughter was a little embarrassed when her mom stepped out of the car with her. Nelson wasn’t trying to embarrass her, she just so happened to be subbing at that particular school on that particular day.
Nelson usually works for BVSD as the Coordinator of Equity and Partnerships for the Southwest Network. But like many Central Admin staff, she was stepping in to help staff the school and to be a resource of support during the pandemic.
“I loved being able to help out and to be in buildings again and just be with kids,” said Nelson. “I think it’s a really challenging time for everyone”
She also supported other schools when they went back to in-person learning.
“I also helped one of our elementary schools that didn’t have a special education teacher that could teach in person,” added Nelson.” So I came in and was able to be a part of that team and was the Special Education Teacher for that class for a whole week. At another elementary school, they had to have far more lunch periods than normal, and they just didn’t have enough staff to supervise so that teachers could take their own lunch breaks. If we were not there, then teachers or administrators wouldn’t have been able to take a lunch break.”
The goal after students went back to in-person learning this year became keeping schools open. The pandemic created a challenge with impacts from the quarantines and having enough resources to stay afloat.
“Essentially what we did as a network leadership team, we said we’re going to drop a lot of things that we’re doing, anything that’s not urgent, and we’re going to physically go into buildings and cover classes and support administrators,” said Chris Brecht, Networks Manager for the School and Network Leadership Department. “This was a top priority for everyone.”
That’s when Central Admin staff decided to clear their calendars. They jumped around from school to school, anywhere that needed help. Whether it was with classroom support, bus duty, recess duty, playground duty, or lunch duty.
“I had the fortune to be able to work at Boulder High School as the in-person teacher for students,” said Kristin Nelson-Steinhoff, Director of Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Education. “I also worked with 9th grade students [at BHS] who had never stepped foot inside the building, so it was their first experience inside their new school. I worked at Monarch High School and provided supervision for students when their teacher, who was on an exception, was teaching from home on the computer. I worked at Louisville Elementary providing lunchroom and playground supervision for students, along with also having some opportunities to sit down one-on-one with students and help them with work or with some reading help. I also worked at Louisville Middle School where I helped capture the teacher on the screen who was teaching the students [from home] and sat with those that were in-person and helped provide supervision.”
“I did lunch duty and recess duty at one school,” said Melia Syed, Reading Coordinator. “I also helped out when the fires happened. They dispersed at Jamestown and Gold Hill to other schools, so in 2 hours we just set up a classroom so that students could come and start school the next day. I helped support [teachers] a lot with their social emotional [needs]. We did a lot of coaching and helped people be able to deal with their fears and anxieties. A number of us also went to Boulder High to help check in the students and make sure they had their Covid survey to come to the school.”
Approximately 30 members of the Central Admin team including Area Superintendents, Executive Directors, Directors, Coordinators and clerical staff stepped in to provide support.
“Area Superintendents were also going into buildings to support principals because they were dealing with this as well,” added Brecht. “It was really cool to see all hands on deck. It was very impressive to see them out supporting or filling in for principals.”
“To me the best part of it was that I know Ginny [Ginny Vidulich, Northwest Support Network Area Executive Director] and Sam [Sam Messier, Northwest Support Network Area Superintendent] were ready at any time to do the same thing,” added Syed. “They weren’t asking us to do something that they weren’t willing to step in and do, which was such an impressive part of their leadership. I think that is something I really appreciated was her [Sam’s] willingness to not just say hey all of you be ready, but she was ready. She also stepped up to the plate and had boots on the ground to support the schools.”
When in-person learning started, there were urgent needs for support and resources. Stepping up to help fellow employees in the school buildings was something very tangible that Central Admin staff could do to show their support. But Kiffany Lychock, Director of Instructional Practices for the Northwest Network, said she never forgot who she was helping.
“What is first and foremost on the minds of all of us who work in Central Admin is just how much in awe we are of the work that our teachers are doing right now,” said Lychock. “We know that our teachers are the ones that are on the front lines and are doing amazing things with our kids. They really are our true heroes in all this work. Honestly, it brings me to tears a lot of days with the amount of thoughtfulness and care, and just the sheer resiliency that they show everyday, and doing really hard work and doing what’s best for kids.”
The pandemic has shifted the way teachers teach, students learn, and staff work. During these challenges, everyone we spoke with agreed that they were happy and honored to help their fellow employees and to help students stay in school.
“It was wonderful being able to be with students, it was awesome,” said Nelson-Steinhoff. “It was really nice to be able to help with what schools needed. It allowed schools to see that we’re there for them and to feel that support was pretty important. And students were really happy and excited to be back in person.”
“It felt amazing,” added Lychock. “I’m a former High School teacher and there’s this feeling that you wish you could do more. You can never do enough right now to feel like you’re supporting because you know how hard teachers are working. So being able to do something really tangible for teachers and building leaders, and filling in that role of support of being physically present when they just needed someone in the building, felt great. Being around the kids and the teachers in the buildings has always filled my bucket.”
Helping each other through this crisis has revealed the true spirit of how everyone is in this together. Central Admin staff said that Principals and Teachers expressed genuine gratitude and thanks for the support.
“The feedback was really good,” said Syed. “There wasn’t one principal or teacher who didn't say thank you. Whether it was covering for recess or a classroom or checking kids in, they were all so appreciative. I think that they saw that we were willing to risk things as well because all the teachers were putting themselves out there by being exposed to each other and students, and we were also willing to put ourselves at risk to be supportive.”
“There was so much thanks and appreciation [from staff] because if there’s not enough help, then that’s when schools have to close down,” said Nelson. “So it was like [from staff] ‘thank you for helping us be able to stay open and continue our programs’. A couple of different schools had said that it was hard for them to sleep at night because they were just thinking about how they we’re going to have a teacher for a program or where help was going to come from. So I think it helped relieve a lot of stress that administrators in buildings were having trying to figure out how they were going to meet all the needs in the buildings.”
BVSD highlights Central Admin staff as “BVSD Heroes” for their role in helping all building staff keep schools open during the pandemic.