SIA Distance Learning is out of this (virtual) world

April 10, 2020

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In a time of unquestionable uncertainty, one thing is certain, the students at Strelitz International Academy continue to learn, engage, and connect virtually with their classmates and teachers since school went online on March 16.

Early in March, when no one would have believed the impact of the Coronovirus on the U.S., Heather Moore, SIA head of school, told the SIA staff to prepare for the possibility of schools closing. Teachers were asked to imagine a virtual version of the same lessons they were teaching at school.

Janet Jenkins, Primary Years director, created a Google booklet of websites and online tools to help teachers make their lessons engaging. “At SIA we take pride in delivering a quality learning experience to our students in order to fulfill our mission,” says Jenkins. “The same is our goal under exceptional circumstances. Should the school be closed for any reason for an extended period of time, we will continue to execute daily lessons through Distance Learning. While we are unable to truly replicate the amazing interactive experiences we offer in our classrooms, we will still provide our students with meaningful instruction that meets expected standards and continues to cover grade-level curriculum objectives.”

“When schools closed starting on March 16, we were ready for online learning,” says Moore. “I was so proud of the faculty and staff at SIA. They have created and implemented engaging online lessons, assignments, and hands-on activities from the first day of distance learning.”

In fact, SIA was so prepared that Moore says the school has provided assistance and tips on its distance learning program with other schools across the nation.

Lorna Orleans, Early Years director, says she knew this was going to be a learning curve for the teachers, “We are always encouraging learning off screen, and now we would be asking students to get on a screen for their learning.”

Still, the preschool teachers persevered, creating classroom websites, morning meetings, and hands-on lessons to keep the children engaged. They have included active dance vidos, literay challenges, and virtual bedtime stories and Shabbat singalongs.

“I felt that it was very important for our staff and families to stay connected with each other during this stressful time. Shabbat is a time to relax and enjoy each other, so we wanted to ensure continuity for our little ones,” says Elyssa Brinn, SIA Early Years assistant director.

Rashi Brashevitzky, Judaic Studies director, adds, “here at SIA we take pride in being able to continue to provide fun, interactive, and engaging Judaic programming for our students from a distance.” Brashevitzky has incorporated puppets, stories, songs, and interactive, digital scavenger hunts and Youtube videos to ensure that students have the tools to learn about and celebrate Shabbat and Jewish holidays.

The mental health and wellbeing has been an important part of the transition to distance learning. While students are able to go at their own pace, they are motivated by the daily instruction and connections with their teachers and classmates during class time over Google Meet. Plus, school counselors have been available for students and faculty that need support.

Aaron Kass, a parent and board member, says he is pleased with his children’s experiences and in awe of the dedication of their teachers. His children are currently in grades three and kindergarten, and his youngest will start in EY2 this fall. “Our family has been blown away by the comprehensive, content-driven approach, full of warmth and care, shown by our children’s teachers engaged in distance learning. It’s clear that the hours they put in “on screen” are backed up by numerous hours of preparation “off screen” and we are so thankful for them.”
The admissions office is ‘open,’ scheduling Zoom calls and giving virtual tours so that families can continue to enroll for the 2020-2021 school year. Email Carin Simon, admissions director, to schedule a virtual tour. csimon@strelitzacademy.org.

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