Before the pandemic and Home Learning, Alicia Sanchez Elementary School Fifth Grade Teacher Jamie Martucci readily admits that she wasn’t very techy.
“I always joke that I'm kind of old school,” said Martucci. “I enjoy teaching on the board and, until now, I hadn’t used Google Classroom and things like that on a normal basis.”
Everything changed when Boulder Valley School District school buildings were closed in March to help slow the spread of COVID-19. In the matter of a couple weeks, Martucci and teachers across the district had to learn new systems and a new way of presenting lessons remotely.
It wasn’t long before she realized that Home Learning and the software she was learning, was providing some unintended benefits.
“I am finding that it is a great way to keep in contact with families and so easy for me to communicate on a weekly basis what assignments the kids have daily and weekly -- what still needs to be turned in. It is a pretty easy technology to learn and to show people,” Martucci said.
The learning curve could have been huge for students and families at the Title I school, where 280 of the 291 students picked up Chromebooks -- largely because they don’t have computers at home. But in the initial days of Home Learning, Martucci and her colleagues worked diligently to guide everyone through using their computers.
“I think even some of the kids were nervous, even though they had been using Chromebooks,” Martucci added. “We had the kids open up their Chromebooks with a parent, so we could talk them both through -- this is how it is structured, this is where you can find things -- this is how you can reach out to us.”
While the situation certainly isn’t ideal or what anyone in BVSD had planned for this school year, Martucci says she loves the connection she has formed with families during the crisis.
“That really has been a silver lining and I'm really enjoying that,” Martucci said. “ I'm really getting to know beyond the student, the families and how I can be a better help and make school work for them and support them.”
She intends to continue using Google Classroom and building stronger relationships with families moving forward.
“There are so many things now that I will be incorporating and changing next year,” Martucci said. “I'll still teach on the board -- and I still like to use manipulatives and visuals and things like that -- but I definitely will be adding in this connection piece because I am finding that it is tying me so much closer to my families and just kind of getting rid of whatever barriers there were. It has been such a direct connection, which is awesome.”
Of course, Home Learning doesn’t replace the in-person connection that we know is incredibly important for our students and essential for our most vulnerable populations. Additionally, we understand the struggles that many of our families are having while navigating this new, temporary way of learning.
“Yeah, we want everything to come back normal, because it is really frustrating,” shared Alicia Sanchez Elementary parent Cynthia Villanueva. “Everything is online and they are getting frustrated – all three of them.”
That is part of the reason why the entire support network at Sanchez Elementary, including the school’s mental health advocate, Yadi Cook, are working together every day to support students.
“"I try to involve Jamie, sometimes the anxiety and stress the students are experiencing is due to the virtual learning,” Cook explained. “Collaborating with Jamie, the students and their families has helped reduce stress and anxiety and has helped the overall family unit on their view of virtual learning.”
Cook works closely with families, providing them with the supports and strategies needed to get through these tough times.
She constantly asks, “How can we relieve the stress? How can we relieve the anxiety and help them? This is a whole new world for so many of our students.”
For Cynthia’s son, fifth-grade student Angel Rodriguez, his frustration around math was causing friction at home.
“When I was having my conversation with him -- he is so honest and he was like, I'm just fighting with my mom a lot,” Cook said. “He would say, ‘math is so hard and challenging,’ and I was like hold up.”
She quickly reached out to Martucci and in moments, the three of them were discussing the issue and navigating possible solutions.
“He was so surprised, because Ms. Martucci is on this phone call in less than a minute later,” Cook said. “We talked about some techniques he could use, breathing, taking walks and just connecting with his pet that he loves to reduce some of that anxiety.”
“We are responding to them in pretty simple ways,” Martucci added. “It doesn't take much. But it makes a big difference for the kiddos.”
Angel says things have improved both at home with his mom and with math.
“What I love with Ms. Martucci is math,” Angel said. “It is not that hard anymore.”
“We talked again yesterday – and he was a totally different kid,” Cook said.
In the midst of this pandemic, it can be hard to remember that there is an entire team dedicated to supporting our students. If you are struggling, reach out to your child’s teacher.
Additionally, here are some other useful resources offered by BVSD.
If you are unsure where to start, leave a message on BVSD’s Family Helpline at 720-770-0102. Our bilingual staff can help answer questions or refer you to others in the district that can help.
And remember the old adage, ‘This too shall pass.”
“This is going to go away. It is not going to be forever,” said Villanueva. “It is like a bump in the road and then everything is going to get normal.”