Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Bethany Helwig
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

An inside look at distance learning

How teachers, students, and staff are staying positive


With new safety precautions implemented due to COVID-19 (the novel coronavirus), last week schools moved to a new model for education—distance learning. Both teachers and students are striving to make the most of it despite the obstacles they face.

“This is an unprecedented time,” said Jill Jutunen, a special education teacher at Barnum Elementary School, about the new change. “We are missing our school family... the hugs, smiles, silliness, the ‘ah-ha’ moments when we can see a sparkle in the eye of a child who now understands. We miss answering questions face-to-face and providing on-the-spot accommodations so that a child can easily access their education. This is what we know and do so well.”

Local schools are providing materials to be picked up (or delivered) to their students since in a rural area, internet access can be problematic. Once homework is completed, the material is returned to the school at designated drop off locations, and the cycle continues.

“With just eight days to create eight weeks worth of learning materials, running my classes is still evolving,” said Carol Jelinek, the 5th/6th grade reading teacher at Willow River Area School. “I'm using Google Classroom. Each week, I have a series of assignments that students complete. I introduce a subject with Google slides, then I support it with some fun videos on the concept, then some practice quizzes, then an assignment to complete and turn in either digitally or at the school's drop off bin. Many of our teachers made extensive videos of them teaching concepts to make sure students can learn at their normal rate and depth. Many of us are video conferencing as check-ins or for class discussions on novels or other concepts. We sent home folders with paper materials as well, so students would still have access to resources if there's no internet.”

Moose Lake’s High School Principal Billie Jo Steen weighed in on the challenges teachers face with the distance placed between them and their students. “Moose Lake High School students are used to using Chromebooks and accessing Google Classroom for their in-person classes and that is the primary delivery mechanism for our distance learning right now. The challenge is for our students who do not have good internet access at home, or for students who are babysitting younger siblings and trying to help them with their school work while also staying on top of their own. Our teachers are working with families around those challenges and we are very aware that our families are stressed right now and we want to do everything we can to support them.”

Teachers have been doing what they can to ease the stress for both the students, their parents, and themselves.

“Ms. Hebb's third grade class did a quick race to see who could find a stuffy first this morning, showed off family pets yesterday, and is having fun with daily bad jokes and riddles and just talking ‘face to face’ on video meetings,” said Jelinek.

Another third grade class is doing a daily Lego challenge, one class is competing in an online scavenger hunter, and Ms. Twining of Willow River sent out a personal video message to each first grade student.

“People are connected and interacting, reaching out now more than ever,” said Juntunen. “We are all humbly walking through the unknowns with grace and kindness!"


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