NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Showing love and admiration during Teachers Appreciation Week presents a challenge. Social distancing means no assemblies in the gym, no in-class parties, not even a well-deserved pat on the back.

So, Lord Stirling School Principal Ellen Treadway had to get creative.

She arranged to have the students and staff members – 250 in all – brought together by teleconference technology. Once they were all gathered in a Google Meet, she revealed to the staff that this was all done as a tribute to them.

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There was a slide presentation and the students, who had created posters and prepared messages of appreciation, made little presentations.

In the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, Treadway said it was important to remind the teachers that they are in the students’ hearts, even if they can’t be in the classrooms.

“I wanted us to still feel like a family and a community and for us to celebrate what they're doing together because I think it's very important that teachers know that we understand it's not easy for them,” Treadway said. “They're still teaching when they're also taking care of their own families. So, it was very important for me to recognize what they're doing and to have us all come together to see that and make that happen.”

Teachers have been teaching the 10,300 or so New Brunswick school district students remotely since March. The spread of COVID-19 forced Gov. Phil Murphy on May 4 to close the doors on the schools for the rest of the year.

It didn’t take long for the teachers or the students to adapt to remote instruction.

Treadway said the first step was making sure the students had the technology to do the course work and have virtual classroom time. The students in third to fifth grades had their own school-issued devices when the school’s doors closed. In short order, the students in first and second grades soon got their devices, too.

For the kindergarten students, many had devices and some were able to use a sibling’s one. The others were given one.

After a short adjustment period, the teachers were using some of the technology to do things they couldn’t do before.

“They have different platforms that they're utilizing with technology that engage them,” Treadway said. “They will have activities where they're doing read-alouds to bring them in, then have them write about something. They are using Jamboard Flipgrid, Screencastify - so many different avenues of technology where they can record themselves, their lesson, and then put it into the Google Classroom for kids who maybe didn't see it at that time, but they can view later. Which is amazing, because then if that child wasn't available, you know, to see it in the morning during the meeting, they can go in and watch the recording of the lesson.”