Crossroads of Education: Stacey Zerrusen

Dieterich Art Teacher

When were you aware of the COVID-19?

During the RTI period when kids can catch up on homework – CNN 10 tv program shown at school.  Didn’t worry until about a week before we closed.  Early March when we began worrying.

How quickly were you aware that you’d have to shut the school?

Friday before we closed – March 13 – we met at 8 a.m. and were told that we needed to have a lesson ready to send home with students that day.  I had saved a few items online – we had 20 minutes to prepare and send items home.  Found out at 4 p.m. that remote learning would start the next Monday.

How did your role change when the school closed?

I teach art hard to do online – Google classroom wasn’t something that I had used before.  Had to use Google classroom – had to teach the kids how to use Google Classroom – many kids had been told that there wouldn’t be grades so it was difficult to keep junior high and high school students engaged.

I see elementary kids once every six days – I sent themed activities for them.  Encouraged them to put it in their windows so on Fridays teachers could do road trips to see their work.  

Dieterich is a huge district – 40 minute drive across the district.  Over 2 hours to see all the artwork.  

Did you have to take on other roles?

Not necessarily. I think it took longer to prepare and send the activities than typical in class. And, grading art online is demanding.  Assignments came from a lot of locations – even Facebook messages.  

What did you do to support remote learners?

Sent home physical packets for those who couldn’t get online.  Sent art materials – surprised how few kids didn’t have access to art materials like sharpies.  Volunteered with the school lunch program.

What was the internet access like around here?

Many rural students don’t have a strong internet connection.  It just isn’t available.  Students are encouraged to come to the school parking lot.  Fiber is supposed to be coming to the area – all students are going to be one to one with Chromebooks.  Chromebooks are backordered for now, though.  Hope is that the assignments could be downloaded and then return how and work offline to complete the assignments.

How are art classes in socially distances working?

We have masks.  Open courtyard attached to her class.  Can take their masks off in the courtroom.

Half class in courtyard and half in the classroom.  All the teachers are trying to be outside as much as possible.

Masks haven’t been a problem.  Not a big deal – surprisingly kids will wear outside too.

When kids’ hands are busy, they’ll forget the masks are on.

Teach until 2 p.m. each day, then submit classes for remote learners – 

Started out with a student taking ceramics but he ended up taking another class – that just needs to be in person.

What was the biggest challenge?

Lack of materials at home – not having all the materials available

Not knowing if they are getting it online – some kids are better at checking in

What is the biggest frustration?

Technology!  I can use technology, but I’m not used to using it in the art world.  Create, edit, upload videos – 

Were there new things that you had to learn?

Try to get to know the kids quicker.  If they have to go into quarantine, I would have a connection with them.

Try to get the kids to use all the same platform so assignments are all 

Kids are happy, excited to be at school.

Other things that you learned throughout the Pandemic?

Groups online of art educators who have been fabulous about sharing their expertise!

Making the high school students keep an online art portfolio.  At the end of the semester they’ll have this to share.

I think the future of education will be online.  Being a small school and community, online classes will give us a way to provide more electives and meet student needs.

Enjoy in person learning over remote learning overall.

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