Learning online is a new reality for many students around the globe. But locally, although the building is closed, school continues for students at Rockford Lutheran School.

When word came down that the building would close, Rockford Lutheran School teachers understood the importance of continuing their students’ learning, so they went to work and found some creative and effective ways to teach and connect with their students.

Marjorie Preston and Marie Buss both teach fifth grade and prior to online learning, they spent a great deal of time getting to know their students. They continue this practice even though they are not in the classroom.

The connections they make could be brief conversations, like an exchange of emails, or significantly longer using phone calls or Facetime. Between the two of them, they have averaged more than 225 interactions with their students everyday!

Third grade teachers Dawn Zacharuk and Ashley Crouch continue to explore new and exciting ways to teach their students online. Earlier last week students were learning about long division.

Instead of sending them a math worksheet, these teachers developed a lesson called “lyric lab.” Using their math skills, this assignment provided students with a chance to create a rap song about long division. Afterward, a mother of one student reached out to her teacher to thank her for this learning experience, and shared that she laughed so hard while her daughter worked on this fun assignment.

Stacey Wright has been teaching English in the junior high at Rockford Lutheran School for many years. As she moved her instruction online, Stacey realized the importance of using various resources to keep her students engaged while learning. This week her students will be working on a reflective writing assignment that requires them to critically think about the notion of fear.

During this time, she will provide a teaching video where she gives instruction on the literary skills needed for this assignment. After this she will share her thinking with her students and introduce them to a poem by Maya Angelou.

High school math teacher, Jon Poppe, would not let the idea of teaching online stop him from using information that he gathered from graded tests or quizzes to plan for instruction. One day, after teaching his students a math concept online, Jon discovered that some students didn’t do well on a recent quiz.

As he reflected more, he knew his students still had misconceptions about the skill being taught. Had he been in the classroom students would have had the opportunity to ask questions. So, Jon decided it was important to invite some students to “meet” with him online through a Zoom session to reteach part of the lesson. Afterward, he provided his students additional opportunities to practice this skill before moving on to a new concept.

Teaching music does not have to be compromised while learning online! As the semester winds down, Monica Benolkin’s orchestra students will ramp up their learning by creating their own new composition where they record a portion of their concert music into soundtrap.com and use the loops available to them to create their own piece. In the end, parents will continue to enjoy listening to music that was directly related to their children's learning experiences.

Across the country, one of the repercussions from COVID19 has been the effect it has had on our school system. For some students around the nation, learning has been put on hold. But, at Rockford Lutheran, this experience has changed the way students think about school. Faculty too have changed their understanding and eagerly look forward to growing into this new way of learning.

Judy M. Fiene is faculty dean, Rockford Lutheran School