While many schools across the country are continuing to make adjustments when it comes to how students are learning due to the novel coronavirus, the staff and teachers at Roberto Clemente Middle School are utilizing the virtual transition to provide various opportunities for its students.
At Clemente, teachers and staff have been going above and beyond to support their nearly 365 students and make them feel special and this is continuing even through the pandemic.
"We try to mirror as much as possible what we would have done if we had a regular school year online," said principal Paulette Gaddy. “Certain teachers are still grouped together, so that they had time to plan together remotely.
"If we have classes that are doing joint projects, the classes are still grouped in the same way so that they can do things routinely together," she added. "We’re still working together in terms of lesson plans."
Students at Clemente start their virtual day off with a morning meeting which includes social emotional learning. During the meetings, students are able to express their feelings with their teachers.
Following the meeting, students often break into two groups. While some students participate in prep classes that include gym, computers or music, other students will participate in their regular schedule of reading, math, science and social studies.
"We still have our schedule where students have time for synchronous learning," Gaddy said. "Asynchronous learning is also built into their schedule. We still have our small group instruction, which will be our intervention or accelerations courses for different groups of students.
"Teachers utilize different types of digital tools to engage students, so that students are not just sitting and watching the screen, but are learning more interactively," she added. "We do utilize Google Classroom for assignments.
"We still have our assemblies," she added. “In terms of PBIS (Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports), we still have our celebrations on Friday. We also do our PBIS celebration twice a week where the kids even have a movie day or play games just to kind of break up the work during the week so that kids can engage socially with their peers."
To help sixth-grade students get acclimated with the transition to middle school, Clemente has offered its students daily counselor sessions.
"Since our sixth-graders are new to middle school this year, we provided additional sessions with counselors where the counselors are helping them get acclimated with middle school," she added. "They have a career readiness session with one of the counselors each day.
"We wanted to make sure that this new experience wasn’t overwhelming for them with them being at a new school combined with us going virtual learning due to the pandemic," she added. "We wanted to make sure that them and all of our students get the support that they need."
Gaddy stated that Clemente counselors and teachers also help students prepare for high school.
"We bring in a lot of speakers to talk to our students," Gaddy said. "We also just finished high school selections where we had a lot of schools come in and talk to our eighth-grade students. The counselors are also making sure that they are prepared for the high school setting.
"Our teachers are working on their writing with them right now. Making sure that they are prepared on the academic side so that when they get to the ninth grade they will be fully prepared.
"I’m really glad to be working with these amazing groups of teachers and staff at Clemente," she added. "Whenever a challenge comes up, they always figure out a way to not only figure it out, but to also bring new ideas to the table. It’s been such a blessing for me to work with a team of people with that mindset. I truly love working with them."
Gaddy said she’s particularly proud of how her students have adjusted to virtual learning during the pandemic.
"They have really gone above and beyond," Gaddy said. "They have really shown dedication to their learning even though we’re in this pandemic.
"They trust us to lead them through all of this and in return we’re making sure that the kids are doing what they need to do and have everything that they need," she added. "I’m so proud of them and really miss them tremendously."
When schools do eventually open back up, Gaddy said that Clemente staff will continue to utilize online tools.
"This pandemic has opened up for us new ways to think about teaching," Gaddy said. "From this experience, our teachers and students have learned how to take more ownership of what they are teaching and learning.
"The use of technology has allowed them to have the opportunity to do multiple things at the same time. Students are also able to log-in from wherever they are. They’re still able to keep up with what’s going on in the classroom, even though they may not be in a physical classroom.
"It also allowed us to think outside the box when it comes to teaching and learning," she added. "We will definitely continue to use technology moving forward."