Local kindergarten teacher shares inside look of virtual classroom

Instructors find creative ways to engage students online
Published: Nov. 24, 2020 at 6:34 PM CST
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - “It’s been different not seeing everyone’s faces,” said Swan Hillman fifth-grader, Angelina Keys.

Isabel Freedlund’s day would usually start with a cup of coffee waiting for the school bell to ring, signaling the start of her bilingual Kindergarten class at Swan Hillman Elementary school in Rockford. But that was before COVID-19. This year she stands in an empty classroom, in front of a computer, trying to connect with her students on Zoom.

“It’s not easy with all of the technology, and getting everyone ready to start classes together,” said Freedlund.

Freedlund isn’t alone in her challenges. With more than 1.2 billion students out of the classroom, teachers must maintain focus, keep the children alert and engaged and try to present a sense of normalcy. She said it pushes her to be more creative.

“I made these smiley faces that I sent home,” Freedlund said. “So every morning I ask them to show me how they’re feeling.”

Freedlund plays games, sings songs, dresses in costumes and adds guest appearances from a giant stuffed elephant. She said it’s about provoking positive responses, emotionally and academically, from her students. Swan Hillman Principal, Carolyn Kloss, boasts about her school’s teachers, especially their efforts to make kids still feel like kids.

“We’re going to be okay. We’re going to eventually all come back together again in person, and even though we’re separated right now, we’re still a part of the same team,” Kloss said.

Swan Hillman Elementary has about half of its students learning remotely, while the other half learns in-person. However, after Thanksgiving, all students will complete the remainder of the year online.

RPS District 205 released a statement saying, “All RPS 205 staff are required to report to work during this time. Our staff provide an essential service to our students and community. As essential workers, we want to make sure our teachers and staff have the best possible work environment, even as they connect remotely during the next few weeks. When teachers work in schools or RPS 205 administrative sites, they have access to resources - like quality Internet, printers and copy machines - plus any staff support or coaching resources they might need. During school hours, we need to ensure all staff prioritize their students. We know that it’s difficult to balance the needs of a family and household and also prioritize a full classroom.”

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