e-Learning during the COVID-19 pandemic has been an adjustment for many students. Despite missing friends and the cancellation of many school-related events and sports, teachers, coaches and students are staying connected and making the best that they can of the situation. In particular, Special Education teachers and Unified Special Olympics coaches have been staying connected with students and athletes through virtual meetings and much more.
Every Monday, after logging off of e-learning, Unified Special Olympics Club members get together on GoogleMeet to stay connected and active. Co-Leader Katherine Lew has organized most of these meetings. "By implementing Google Meets, it has really allowed our athletes and volunteers to stay connected and know that they still have people who care about them, even during this pandemic," says Lew.
While Unified athletes and volunteers have missed in-person connection, virtual meetings have given them the opportunity to keep in touch. "Many of our members thrive from connections they form with other people," says Lew, "which is why we found it important to find a way to stay connected during quarantine."
The virtual meetings that Unified has held have been a truly special experience for everyone involved. "The first week of Google meetings was amazing to me," says Unified Advisor and Special Olympics Coordinator Amy Mayer. "The pure joy on the kids faces as they logged on was priceless." Through all the fun and excitement, the meetings could get pretty wild too. "It was also total chaos," says Mayer. "At that point we didn't realize how important it was for people to mute their microphones. So it was [a] rapid fire of questions, laughter and connections."
Mayer also coaches the MHS Lakers adapted softball team which, despite cancellation of spring sports, has found creative ways to stay connected. They ended the season by making t-shirts for all the players and delivering them to their homes.
Along with Google Meets, Unified has also started using Charity Miles, an app that tracks walking and running distances and allows users to compare their stats with friends and family. Lew says that using this app has kept students active, while also keeping that sense of competition alive. In addition, Unified has created many activities on their instagram page for members to participate in, including bingo, dress-up days, and virtual challenges.
And as many seniors will not be able to spend their final days of high school at MHS in person, Unified honored their senior athletes and volunteers by delivering them care packages to express their gratitude and let them know that they will be missed.In other schools throughout the district, Special Ed students and teachers have also remained connected. Kaari Cox, a special education teacher at Clear Springs Elementary, has been using virtual technology to continue academic and social routines with students. "For me, staying connected to my students means engaging in at least one fun, familiar activity with all my students every day," says Cox. She leads her students in various activities like calendar time, activities with paras, and direct instruction from her. Staying virtually connected has also meant a lot for Kaari. "[My students] need that consistent, routine face-to-face contact (even if via a screen), and so do I," she says. "Seeing my kids light up when they see me and their paras and their friends onscreen every day is the highlight of my day."