KENILWORTH, NJ – Tuesday, March 17, 2020, Kenilworth students and teachers woke up to a very new school experience due to the global pandemic of coronavirus. Fifth grade Harding Elementary School teacher Renee Jernigan stated, “one that no adult or child has ever experienced before.” The schools officially moved to virtual learning for the first time to comply with the state's COVID-19 quarantine guidelines and Kenilworth students in grades 1-12 were given Google accounts.
Jernigan explained virtual learning in more detail. “With these accounts, students and teachers have the option to log on and enter a Google Classroom created by their teacher. In this classroom, the teacher can post assignments and links to many online learning experiences. The Google platform allows students to create slide presentations, documents, etc. that can be turned into the teacher for review.” Now teachers from all around the world are meeting on Facebook groups and on Twitter to share ideas that are working to make this unique experience a success. Jernigan continued “The outpouring of support is heartwarming. Many companies are offering free online educational platforms to assist teachers in all subject areas. The options and ideas for virtual learning are endless.”
Students in Mrs. Jernigan's class start their day on Flipgrid. Flipgrid is a social learning platform that allows educators to ask a question. Then the students respond in a video. Students are able to respond to each other's videos in order to create a discussion. The day ends on Padlet. This is an online bulletin board where students can post information for any topic. In addition to packet work, students are using ThinkCentral for math, Study Island for math and reading, Youtube, KidNuz, Zoom, Readworks, Newsela, Seesaw and Remind. Still, Jernigan really misses her students. “I am so proud of them. They are really rising to the occasion and giving this their all. When asked how they felt about day one, one student replied, "I liked that everything was organized and it was easy to get to all the subjects. There was nothing too difficult. I spent about three hours on my work. I like school a lot better." Another student replied," I liked that I got to work at home with my sister and mom. It was difficult because you can't just ask the teacher you have to figure it out alone or put it in Google Classroom. I like home just as much as school because it is the same work."
Michael Klimchak, another fifth-grade teacher at Harding, and recent winner of the Zachary Prell Role Models Campaign, emphasized, “The students seem to be adjusting extremely well to the idea of learning at home. What’s happening in the world right now is unprecedented, so teachers around the country are trying their best to make learning fun and engaging virtually.” Klimchak accentuated that there is nothing better than the face to face, human interaction in a classroom. “However, with what’s going on now, we need to adjust and make it as smooth of a transition as possible for these students. Some are scared and anxious, not knowing when they will be back at school. Still, our job is to make them feel safe and secure, and reminding them that everything will be ok.”