I Want to Share My Story

Thank you for your continuing responses! Take a look at these stories about facing the challenges of education during the COVID-19 pandemic. Educators continue to demonstrate creativity, resourcefulness, and dedication﹘demonstrating their commitment to support student learning, wherever it takes place.

Redefining how we teach and learn

These entries appear in alphabetical order by the submitter’s location. They have been slightly edited for clarity and length.

June 2021

New Era in Education | Saudi Arabia

Al Alson International School
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Our challenge began on 9 March when the Ministry of Education in KSA announced the mandatory closure of all schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We made heroic efforts to provide our students with online learning experiences and continued connections with us and their classmates.

Asa result, a new era has begun in my school in distant learning. In response to the sudden transition, Dr. Maghoub El Arabi, our academic director, held massive meetings, workshops, and trainings on Zoom, Teams, and Classera so that teachers could become familiar with these applications. He also provided teachers with resources on how to provide excellent teaching and learning using a completely new delivery platform. Mrs. Alaa Ali Mahmoud, our school principal, oversaw all operations, creating a safe and effective online learning environment for both teachers and students. Dr. Heidi Esmat, head of the science department, was our dynamic guide who never stopped answering all our inquiries and stood by providing encouragement and support to the whole team. Mrs. Doaa Abo Naga, the academic coordinator, was committed to and responsible for effective curriculum delivery and for tracking the achievement of departmental goals.

Our school provide recorded videos to parents and students, guiding and assisting them on how to access these platforms so students wouldn’t face any technical problems. Channels like WhatsApp, Telegram, and Facebook were opened 24 hours a day for any inquiries from parents or students. Our school was like a hive of stakeholders, managers, administrators, and teachers working tirelessly every day.

“Show time” was our first online virtual session on 11 March. Teachers were challenging themselves and tried their best to keep the students engaged and to promote interactions, even though the teachers were on screens. Some teachers transformed their homes to school learning environments. This creativity was especially appreciated by lower and upper grade students. These students were so excited to be in the discussion rooms, even shy students engaged with their peers! Parents also became more involved in the learning process by assisting their children on their online journey. To this end, parents were asked to send videos of their children’s activities in all subjects.

We believe in students utilizing what they learn in real-life applications. Our school believes in the importance and crucial rule of physical education for our students to maintain their health and activity. Therefore, P.E. and art sessions were included in the school schedule to help students relieve stress and exhaustion from spending hours in front of screens. Our goal was to pass the crisis smoothly and effectively so the students can take advantage of their online learning. It was a great experience that shaped our education process.

Submitted by:
Hend Mohamed Bassiony
Mentor Teacher

November 2020

Kindergarten leads the way to innovation | Alabama, USA

i3 Academy
Birmingham, Alabama 

Opening a brand-new school comes with a host of challenges, but opening during the COVID-19 global pandemic added several layers of complexity for i3 Academy. i3 Academy is a kindergarten through fifth grade public charter school in Birmingham, Alabama. Our name, i3, is short for imagine, investigate, and innovate. Our mission is to empower learners to solve the problems they see in their world. Our school’s leadership and staff find ourselves living out this mission daily as we solve problems on a local and global scale.

We opened by offering our families three learning formats: full-time, in-person learning; hybrid learning, a combination of two days in person and three days remote; and full-time remote learning. By operating these three models, we are quickly learning what works and what does not work in this new learning landscape. In the midst of all of the logistics, we have seen joyful and creative learning emerge from the challenges.

The remote learning format presented the most unknowns and an extremely steep learning curve. One teacher at each grade level volunteered to take on this challenge.

Our kindergarten remote learning teacher Mrs. Alexander saw a unique opportunity for her learners. She virtuallytook them to her family farm in a neighboring state while she was there visiting. After coordinating connectivity with our tech team, she set up her classroom. Mrs. Alexander took the students fishing; had them hunt for shapes and letters in the woods, and eat a picnic lunch. Back home at i3, our staff watched in awe from our media center as Mrs. Alexander took us on a farm adventure too. In real time, we witnessed the wonder and excitement in her kindergartners’ eyes!

Mrs. Alexander’s experience sparked a chain reaction among our staff. Soon after, our art teacher streamed from her home studio, and our Spanish teacher streamed from her kitchen to teach remote learners to make guacamole. This is only the beginning of unlocking many ways to increase exposure and opportunities for our learners, particularly in the remote learning space.

We are only a few weeks into the school year, but innovative learning continues to occur daily. Remote learning has revealed a host of opportunities for joyful learning and creativity that we could not have envisioned. We are excited to see these ideas manifest in the future at i3 Academy!

Submitted by:
Dr. Dylan Ferniany

Chief Academic Officer

Restoring joy | Louisiana, USA

Mount Carmel Academy
New Orleans, Louisiana

We rekindled joy by being honest about the difficult parts of 2020. This opened the students to laugh, to cry, and to build resilience in community. We worked together to understand the physiology of anxiety and then practiced fun and even silly ways to counteract the body’s responses. We laughed as we stretched. We smiled when we understood that everyone was facing a difficult time and that we weren’t in this alone.

Learning about difficult topics and times doesn’t have to kill joy; it can actually restore it.

Submitted by:
Geoffrey Philabaum
Director of Academic Innovations

Adding the right tools | Saudi Arabia

Alhussan Model School
Saudi Arabia

When we started it was a little bit strange for our students. Then they got used to online learning quickly. Before the COVID-19 outbreak, we used an application to follow our students and give them assignments online. That was a great help to the teachers and students. Now the application is joined with Microsoft Teams and Zoom, and our teaching is going on smoothly. We have done and are still doing amazing things. Online teaching became an easy task for our teachers and our students are enjoying it.

Submitted by:
Salahaldeen Sabri Hassan

International Academic Program Coordinator

September 2020

Preparation and support create success | Bolivia

Santa Cruz Cooperative School
Santa Cruz, Bolivia

Our story begins on March 12th when the Government of Bolivia closed all schools. We had already worked very hard during our 21-day strike in October/November to set up an online learning system. The effort paid off, and when COVID struck, our staff already had experience with online learning. We had also trained families on the use of digital tools for learning. We moved forward with online learning using digital tools such as ZOOM, Plus Portals, and Google Classroom. We purchased a ZOOM pro account for each staff member, and have them all up and running. We support our teachers by providing them with a $25 internet upgrade bonus to help improve connectivity. This has helped greatly.

Here is the sequence of our transition.

  • From March 13–21, our students worked from home, but our teachers were able to come to school.
  • On March 22, Bolivia went into a 14-day quarantine, so now both teachers and students are working from home.
  • On March 25, the president announced that people were not following the quarantine, so she put in place a stricter quarantine that started immediately and went through April 15. The only change in the schedule was that teachers now need to cancel their classes one morning a week so they can make it to the grocery store during their designated window of time on their designated date.

We implemented different programs and processes for staff and students depending on grade level. You can read our details here.

I am amazed at how hard everyone is working to be supportive and to continue the learning on our campus. I am really proud of our efforts and so impressed with how quick and responsive we were! We learned some big lessons during the political unrest during October and November, and were able to apply the knowledge to our next transition. We have gotten so much positive feedback from our teachers, students, and families!

Thank you for giving us a space to share our story about our hard work!

Submitted by:
Dr. Jessica Gilway

Director General

 

Video and variety | Egypt

Brilliance American School
Alexandria, Egypt

In our school, we modified the curriculum to focus on the core ideas and concepts of all standards. All students receive a weekly recorded video that contains the curriculum coverage for each subject. Then students participate in a scheduled virtual meeting so they can interact with their teacher and with each other in real time, to discuss the teaching that was presented in the video. Students work on home projects as well, and they record sessions while they’re doing their research and home experiments.

We differentiated the formative and summative assessments using our Learning Management System (LMS) to serve all students, and we conducted some intervention sessions for the kids that faced some difficulty dealing with the online learning at first. Finally, we assigned the students to make an end of year project integrated between English, math, and science by writing some essays on scientific projects and including statistics and data analysis, to use all possible cross-cutting concepts. The evaluations were rubric-based.

To make it fun for the kids, my school organized some programs in summer to keep the students engaged in the e-learning education system. We made online art workshops and started a STEM and engineering program.

My school made the E-learning as effective as they could. We depend on stakeholder surveys and feedback sent from our LMS to modify the pedagogies and operations to serve our learners best in all circumstances.

Submitted by:
Nagwa Kamal

Head of Science department

Success is in the details | Lebanon

Makassed Omar Bin Al-Khattab College
Beirut, Lebanon

The 21st century is the era of change and challenges across the world including the educational realm. The year 2020 exposed the whole world to a real challenge when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the world.

Education faced the largest disruption during this crisis after mandatory school closures and the city shutting down. Schools around the world have closed their doors because of Corona virus – Covid 19 lockdown leaving more than 1.5 billion children stuck at home. While it’s a great inconvenience for many, it has created a spike in demand for online learning.

This crisis triggered a boom in online education. Education has changed dramatically, with the rise of e-learning. Teachers and students have resorted to distance learning with online classes; thus teaching is undertaken remotely and on digital platforms. Under this huge global challenge, Al Makassed Association responded to this need by shifting education from physical classroom teaching and learning, to remote learning to help offset the impact of school closures. Al Makassed schools implemented online teaching in all its sectors by using the Microsoft Teams platform.

Many steps were taken to facilitate the implementation of remote learning. Readiness consisted of teachers’ preparations including webinars, online workshops, and virtual training prior to diving into their “Teams”. Read the details of how Omar Bin Al-Khattab College implemented its comprehensive distance learning program.

Submitted by:
Ahmad Ghalayini

Principal

Committed to serve amidst the pandemic | United Arab Emirates

Al Adhwa Private School
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

We have a story to tell… our journey through the test of 2020 (the COVID-19 pandemic) and what we did to reach our goals. At the time, our school had just started a transition in leadership. Time was short. So, we braced ourselves, held our hands together and stood firmly to unlock the possibilities.

The scaffoldings were put in place.

Before the pandemic struck, the administration (headed by the Acting Principal), instructed everyone to be ready and cooperative for the abrupt changes that might take place at any time. While waiting for instructions from the Ministry, emergency committees were formed, policies revised, and everyone worked as a team. There were constant meetings and our stakeholders were updated regularly. Online platforms and applications became a must for every staff member to learn and become familiar with.

The sudden turn of events came; APS adopted distance learning.

All schools in UAE were closed and advised to go online. APS staff and teachers worked remotely with the assurance that quality teaching and learning would remain. Key personnel were on call and working around the clock. The weekly in-person meetings became more frequent virtual meetings. The APS team agreed on using the ZOOM application until we found a better platform and eventually moved to Microsoft Teams (MST).Teaching and learning were continuously modified to meet the needs of our learners including the SEN.

What made out walk through the Covid-19 pandemic successful?

What makes us successful during the pandemic could be summarized in three wonderful words—“keeping in touch.” Parents’ Satisfaction Surveys were sent every other week to hear their voices so we could adopt or revise our methodologies. Suggestions/comments were all on the agenda for deliberation in ZOOM meetings.

Students’ voices are important to us. They can write their queries in the platform and the teacher attends to it without delay. For other matters, the school telephone number is operational and answered, if they need to communicate with the social worker. This effort was organized to reach out to each one and hear their voices.

Curriculum-wise, teachers followed their plans and concentrated on the most essential activities. Different tools and resources were used to enhance learning. Honesty at all times is valued greatly. The Exam Committee ensured that the integrity of results was beyond reasonable doubts.

Celebrating Success in 2020

Like other schools, we held virtual graduation ceremonies for grades KG, 2, and 12. We awarded diplomas, and to some; certificates of exemplary accomplishments. Also, the staff were awarded with Certificates of Appreciation as an acknowledgement of their efforts.

The Inspection on 12th of May 2020 by the Abu Dhabi Education and Knowledge (ADEK)

After a month of rigorously and faithfully doing our job, we made it to the top, scoring 100% in all criteria of the Distance Learning Inspection conducted by ADEK on May 12, 2020.

YES, We got this!

Summer holidays arrived; as usual, all schools were closed. But for some administrative staff, there was no break at all. They worked to ensure that everything was in compliance with the ADEK Private Schools Reopening Compliance Program Policies. Our efforts paid off. We received the results of our School Clinic Audit Report conducted on August 17, 2020, with an overall score of 100% and with no follow-up required.

Lastly, our experiences are stories that are meant to be told; a labor of inspiration, dedication and love. While COVID-19 devastates the world, we walk on our path never afraid of the challenges ahead…and we reap the fruits of our labour.

Submitted by:
Fleordeliz Enriquez

Administrative Supervisor

June 2020

Student voice | Egypt

Al-Manar Language School American Section
Ismalia, Egypt

Our students were asked the question: How did our school overcome the COVID-19 crisis?

One story we received came from Lina ElHadidi, a grade 8 student, who said: Our school made sure we communicated and finished our curriculum virtually so that next year we aren’t behind. The school even worked to make sure every student understood through virtual classes and provided remedial classes for students that need help. They made sure students were able to contact their teachers through online groups. If the students needed any clarification, it was provided. The lessons were also covered not only in online classes, but in projects that helped enhance our creativity and gave us something to do at these tedious times. Every week plan and project materials were posted on our school website and through groups that all students joined. We took weekly quizzes and quarterly exams and they were all monitored by the teachers through video calls. Finally, I think my school did a wonderful job at making sure we finished everything and are ready for the upcoming educational year.

Submitted by:
Fatma Tawfik

Middle School Principal and English Supervisor

Celebrating each other | Florida, USA

Sonshine Christian Academy
Callahan, Florida

Through all of the unknowns that the COVID-19 pandemic presented to our K–12 school, we found the following to be true: A friend in crisis is a friend remembered.

Our administration and faculty members have a renewed respect for our students, parents, and even extended family members who made school happen from home. We began the year in August 2019 with the overarching goal to finish the 2019–20 school year strong. Mission accomplished!

With quick action by campus leaders and the great cooperation of families, our school year ended as planned on May 21, 2020. All K–12 students completed their assignments. We hosted three drive-through graduations and celebrations.

Faculty members and support staff members from all grade levels joined in these celebrations (sign-waving, horn-blowing, mask-wearing employees), cheering for each student and their family members. Some commented that the students felt as though they experienced a “personal parade.”

One of the most important celebrations was held for our seniors, who actually graduated on the date originally planned. While the audience was limited to parents only and a few essential staff members, the ceremony was indeed special. All graduates met state of Florida requirements for high school graduation, as well as being members of the National Honor Society. Two students received the Bright Futures Scholarship. As a surprise to the seniors and their parents the school parking lot was once again filled with a cheering crowd of well wishers.

I celebrate the strengthened partnership with our families through crisis.

Appreciation for our outstanding faculty and support staff who along with so many educators rose to the occasion by far exceeding expectations will remain a cause for continued celebration.

Looking forward to the bright future of K–12 education.

Submitted by:
Lorie Johnson
Principal

Small-town strength | Nebraska, USA

Bayard Elementary School
Bayard, Nebraska

I am from Bayard, Nebraska, a very small town. We may not have much in this town as far as industries and things to do, but we have a fantastic school system led by great administrators. When COVID was still far from present in our community, our administrators were working hard to get all of us teachers prepared for what they saw coming. We were all trained on Zoom and were ready to teach remotely in a matter of days. Our administrators worked to ensure all of our students had working devices to take home. They also made sure that there would be WiFi for the students, especially the ones out of town. The teachers worked tirelessly to make sure their students were getting the best education possible given the circumstances. I also need to give credit to these students who showed up every day and did the best they could. This was definitely not easy but these kids are worth it. I know our story matches others around the country but I am proud of our schools and all who are involved with them.

Submitted by:
Cheryl Ferrero

3rd grade teacher

An unusual celebration | Virginia, USA

Summit Christian Academy
Yorktown, Virginia

We were able to have a drive-in graduation ceremony. The graduates wore masks and gloves when receiving their diplomas. It was beautiful, as you can see in our graduation video.

Submitted by:
Tim Grimes

Head of School

May 2020

Coming together for student learning | California, USA

Pacific Preparatory
San Francisco, California

In our one-on-one school model, teachers work with students in their homes, transforming areas of our family’s homes into bright, engaging classroom spaces. We thoughtfully curate curriculum to meet the needs of each of our students, and because we work one-on-one, we see amazing progress with our students.

The transition to virtual instruction as a result of the Coronavirus was, perhaps, easier for us than other schools due to our model and ability to pivot quickly. That said, we’ve focused heavily in the last six weeks on how to “recreate” as much of the in person experience as possible, ensuring lessons would be able to continue to be conducted in the same high quality way.

Our leadership team and teachers have been collaborating on utilizing all of the best features of the ZOOM platform, experimenting with different tech tools and even different models of the same tech tools to make sure we’re choosing the right ones: document cameras (so teachers can see student writing in real time as they would in an in-person classroom!), external webcams, track pads, resources like BitPaper, combining hands-on resources with digital, recording our teachers’ virtual sessions for coaching and feedback, and more.

It’s been comforting, during this time of incredible and uncertain change, to see educators, leadership teams, institutions, and families come together to continually support and improve upon student learning.

Submitted by:
Mel Nichols
Dean of Academics

Multiple tools make the plan | Egypt

Victory College
Cairo, Egypt

Starting the lockdown and closing schools on the 16th of March 2020 the following has been already done and planned.

School in general

  • Making videos for explaining lessons and uploading them to the Smart School
  • Training Head teachers on turning classes into virtual classes through Zoom cloud meeting
  • Scheduling the sessions according to the head of departments
  • Recording the sessions to be uploaded on the Smart School
  • Making live sessions on Facebook to answer all questions on the spot
  • Making a schedule for trial exams and final exams
  • Using Quizziz in linking Zoom sessions with assessment, revision,trial exams, and final online exams
  • Assigning research or projects for high school students to be uploaded on the official dashboard
  • Using Edmodo dashboard (Official dashboard of the Ministry of Education) for all stages by the following steps:
  • All teachers’ emails were distributed to students.
  • Helping students, teachers and parents in using the dashboard
  • Following up the upgrades and decisions made by the ministry of education
  • Following up with Arabic and social studies teachers

Next period plan

  • Generalizing using this dashboard for all subjects besides the Smart School
  • Activation of the School’s website to become a formal channel of introducing everything concerning the school and also to be a method for applying for the next academic year
  • Making the Smart School the official dashboard in dealing with parents concerning their complaints or inquiries and someone will be in charge of that

What has been achieved

  • Utilizing the Smart School in receiving students projects and assignments
  • Utilizing Facebook group in communication with parents and students
  • 24/7 WhatsApp service for both parents and students answering their inquiries and worries.
  • Working via Zoom meeting in giving pre-scheduled weekly classes
  • Connecting Zoom with Quizziz to give online quizzes and trials for the final exam

Challenges

  • Internet connection capacity at students’ and teachers’ homes was the biggest challenge most of the time.
  • Students’ or parents’ unfamiliarity with the program at the beginning but they managed to deal with it later.
  • Some students, including special needs students, were hard to reach during exams so alternatives were planned for them in the form of assignments and projects

Next period plan

  • Teachers will continue giving their online classes orienting students about writing research step by step until reaching the final product
  • Throughout these sessions any grammar obstacles will be clarified and any writing problems will be handled
  • Regarding grades 1 and 2 , although they don’t have research, some reinforcement in reading and writing skills will be given to improve their reading and writing for next year

Submitted by:
Hadeel Ghoneim
Head of American Department

STEAM feeds the community | Georgia, USA

Hampton Elementary School
Hampton, Georgia

STEAM Market Day at HES

While the city of Hampton, GA is rich in history and tradition, it lacks grocery stores and healthy food options. In essence, Hampton is a food desert. We have three gas stations, a few locally owned restaurants, one fast food chain, and a Dollar General. All of these options include high fat and sodium foods with few healthy options for our families. The nearest grocery store is ten miles away, and many of our families lack transportation to and from healthy food there.

Hampton Elementary School (HES) is known for its Farm to School program, project-based learning, and STEAM connection. These 3 big rocks produced a connection to our community and opened the lens of our students to dive into true real-world learning. Over the past 4 years, students from Pre-K to 5th grade have participated in a variety of STEAM activities, which evolved into a seamless integration of project-based learning to push the rigor and relevance of our curriculum.

In 2015, our team decided to build a school garden in hopes that it would serve multiple purposes. In late 2019, we began collaborating with the Atlanta Community Food Bank to provide healthy food options to residents who need them. We began offering “Market Days.”

During our first Market Day in November 2019, we served 75 households and 170 individuals, including 132 children. When the COVID-19 crisis hit, we quickly identified ways to expand our production and outreach. During the month of April, we served 2,621 households, with 10,505 individuals, of which more than 4,000 were children.

Our community loves HES Market Square Days. Read more details about our program  and the community response.

Submitted by:
Michelle Hill
STEAM Coordinator

 

A wake-up call | Mexico

Cumbres international School Queretaro
Querétaro, México

As preschool educators, we are changed forever by Covid-19. This pandemic has provided us with unforgettable lessons, one of which is getting us out of our ‘comfort zone’. Facing Distance Learning with no experience at all forced us all to think outside the box, to be creative, to speed up our learning, to use technology in previously unimaginable ways, to collaborate, to be more empathetic, to solve problems, and to train teachers and parents to do our jobs at home—and all of this with the added pressure of time.

Unlike elementary, middle and high school students, our children still need an adult to help and guide them at all times. Our first challenge, therefore, was to plan and organize all of the material and activities needed for mom and dad in order to make it easier for them to understand and apply our strategies at home, as well as to facilitate everything they needed to take on the role of teacher. Let me tell you that this ‘transition’ was not easy. Our teachers started creating PPT presentations, lesson plans, videos, worksheets, games, tutorials, etc., becoming YouTubers, TikTokers, Zoom specialists and Google educators in a very short period of time. We went through the process of Identifying our own strengths and those of others, teachers training teachers, constantly stopping to reflect on the work we were doing and looking  for ways to improve it.

The next challenge was how best to deliver all of this new information and, thanks to the tech geniuses out there, we have been able to present it in a very clear, concise and organized way. Parents have also been able to access it at all times. Planning material in advance allowed us to also focus on implementing activities focused on managing emotional issues and stress. After all this preparation, our challenge was then to decide how best to evaluate and collect evidence of learning. Again, our team came together and devised a solution, and indeed throughout this whole process, we have constantly had to think of better ways to improve our Distance Teaching methods.

Every time we solve, create, or innovate, it brings us closer together. We have managed to confront the shock and uncertainty of these unprecedented times as one, and that is something for which I must thank this pandemic.

Submitted by:
Azucena Juárez
Pre-School Academic Coordinator

 

Finding the silver lining | New Jersey, USA

Academy of Greatness & Excellence (AGE)
Teaneck, New Jersey

For a private school with limited resources, Academy of Greatness & Excellence (AGE), located in Teaneck and Ridgefield Park, NJ, has far exceeded the expectations of its entire community. When all schools in Bergen County closed on March 13th due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and teachers were forced to switch to a completely new platform of instruction and learning, AGE was ready to tread through those uncharted territories.

During the week prior to the executive order of school closures, AGE had already set the wheels in motion.Teachers received training on WebEx video conferencing and tested the newly introduced platform with their students, Google Classrooms were set up for each subject, and a technology survey was emailed to parents to ensure that all students were equipped with the devices they needed before the school closed its doors.

Monday, March 16th:  8:00 AM…. showtime. AGE teachers were on a mission to deliver the excellence of knowledge to their students, as per the mission and name of the school. With a schedule of 40-minute periods and 15-minute breaks in between, the school day at AGE was recreated in remote mode. Students in grades 3-10 were expected to be at their desks/tables for the school day to get started.

The younger grades received their instruction through video recordings of their teachers’ daily instruction that were posted on the school’s website. The Early Childhood students (grades Preschool-2nd Grade) that attend school in the Teaneck campus of AGE were expected to watch the videos every day, following a suggested schedule that they were emailed by their teachers. As evidence of their learning, parents were asked to send videos of their children performing activities aligned with the lessons.

The students were learning, and the curriculum was not interrupted, unlike everything else surrounding the students. The goal was to maintain structure and provide the AGE students with a sense of normalcy and routine in the midst of a rapidly changing world.

Nevertheless, as smooth sailing as the new platform of teaching and learning was in many regards, obstacles were presenting themselves daily. For the younger grades, parent involvement was needed for guidance and direction, which represented a challenge especially for parents working from home. Challenges for the upper grade students pertained to the pace of online learning that was becoming faster due to the elimination of classroom distractions.  Such challenges led to unexpected results that the teachers started witnessing.

In the early grades, the fact that parents were committing more time to their children along with the teachers’ instructional materials, resulted in higher levels of reading fluency that were apparent through the videos sent to the teachers. Middle School and High School students were more focused during the live instruction time and hence were fully engaged in deeper conversations and critical thinking. Science teachers were transforming their kitchens into chemistry or biology labs as they were conducting experiments and virtual labs; and Math teachers were using the flip classroom model to teach mathematical concepts through videos shared with students prior to class, and then using class time to offer individual assistance and more practice. World Language classes became an opportunity for the entire family to learn the language their child is learning, and Social Studies classes were highlighting issues of race, class, and gender, and piquing students’ interest in social justice.

Every cloud has a silver lining, and AGE is able to spot it in the toughest of times.

Submitted by:
Iman El Dessouky
Principal

From threat to opportunity | Saudi Arabia

Al Manhal Schools Corporation
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Our story changed from a threat that schools suddenly would have to close the gates, to a challenge and new opportunity for improvement

The opportunity became a success in the Saudi community and it became a strength point for our corporation. That’s because we learned from our accreditation experience with Cognia, AdvancED, to take challenges through giving opportunity to get a successful story.

Our story

When the schools suspended and the gates were closed on 8th March 2020, there was a meeting to make  the plan.

1- We began 3 years ago to have speaking virtual classes on Hangouts, so we already used Hangouts many times, but we needed a professional platform. So we moved to the ZOOM and Google Meeting  platforms. In one day, 357 teachers got training on ZOOM and Google meetings.

Therefore, our lessons started as usual in classrooms on 11th March.Up to now, we conducted more than 15000 virtual classes on ZOOM and Google Meetings.

2- We use Whatsapp and Telegram Channels to send the live links for the virtual classes for every parent and every learner.

3- We built 23 youtube channels:

  • American Diploma 9 Channels
  • National Section (Saudi Curriculum 9 Channels)
  • KG 1Channel
  • Different Programs 4 Channels ( Khawarzmy , mental Math , Abilities )

These channels were a turning point that we broadcast to the whole Saudi Community. More than 20 Saudi newspapers and magazines thanked Al Manhal teachers for leading that initiative.

4- We send online interactive links for our Youtube Channels to parents so they can watch the lessons remotely.

5- We use our electronic platform Sharedu for Assessment and E-homework.

6- We follow up with parents daily using Whatsapp, telegram and Classdojo.

7- We conduct PD Workshops for our staff and administrative meetings on ZOOM.

8- For English Language  skills improvement, all Al Manhal Students got links for RAZ-PLUS A-Z for working on English Language Skills starting from 10 March 2020, and English teachers got training on ZOOM to upload all students on the RAZ-PLUS Platform. Now, we are working on E-Certificates for all students.

You can learn more about our school and our response to COVID-19 in this video and see our distance learning statistics.

صحيفة مباشر نيوز

Submitted by:
Nabil Al Dosoky
International Coordinator

Data confirms our success | South Carolina, USA

Lowcountry Preparatory School
Pawleys Island, South Carolina

Here at Lowcountry Preparatory School in Pawleys Island, South Carolina we transitioned immediately to virtual classrooms.  On 16 March 2020, we held professional development for our teachers on the use of Zoom, the online meeting platform, in creating virtual classrooms.  Our first day of virtual classes was 17 March 2020.  We started with core courses for kindergarteners through our juniors and seniors in the International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma Programme.  We are now adding optional, non-core classes such as art.  We are also creating a separate web page with schedules by grade and links to each virtual classroom so as to make virtual school as simple as possible.

Results of a  survey of parents at the end of the first week were decidedly positive.  With approximately 60 percent of our parents responding, 76 percent rated our performance in our virtual classrooms as “A” and  18 percent as “B” for a combined percentage of 94 percent rating us at “A” or “B.”  In response to the question pertaining to continued use of virtual classrooms, 94 percent responded, yes.

The survey also yielded data useful for data-driven continuous improvement! An analysis of recommendations for improvement yielded these three preferences:

  1. Teachers should start each class using the “mute all” button and, then, transition to “mute off”
  2. All teachers should be proficient in the use of “screen share” to show documents, slides, and other material to students
  3. Teachers should e-mail supplemental material to students one day in advance of each virtual lesson

Meanwhile, in the absence of students and most teachers, Assistant Head of School Jeanie Floyd and I have been busy preparing for our Cognia Engagement Review currently scheduled for March 2021.  Jeanie is a recently certified Cognia team member who served on a team just months ago, and I am a certified Cognia lead evaluator with experience ranging over seven years.  Our experience and training, coupled with the rare luxury of uninterrupted focus, have yielded substantial progress. In the near term, we plan to attend “Preparing for the Engagement Review,” the series of Cognia webinars with tips on having a successful improvement journey.

The local press picked up our story and we recently appeared in both printed and online news.

We wish the good people at Cognia health and safety during this international predicament, and we thank you for your support!

Submitted by:
Scott K. Gibson III
Head of School

April 2020

Facing hard times makes the best of us | Egypt

Thebes American College
Cairo, Egypt

Dealing with the Covid virus united the world to bravely face its danger through positive creative thinking.

This is what made all my school members do their best for the students benefit through the online sessions which proved to be extendedly successful.
Through our sessions we were able to teach our students how to organize their time and have priorities. We were able to connect activities with the topics they are studying. Parents became more involved with their children which helped in their self-discovery.

The projects that were assigned made them enlarge their general knowledge and try to prove their analysis by giving more examples to prove their point of view.

Video conferences that took place created competitive atmosphere among students which made them try hard to present excellent researches.

We were able to get over all the obstacles that we faced, one of them was the most important the slow internet, by recording the online sessions while we were giving them.

Our online sessions were not only educational as they have dealt with a lot of issues such as mental health , physical health, positive thinking , creativity, facing critical situations and proving your point of view through open civilized discussions.I hope I explained myself clearly and wish you all the best .

May God bless and protect us all.

Submitted by:
Saboura El Sayed

Chairman

Schools can be suspended but EDUCATION not | Egypt

Sun of Glory International School
Cairo, Egypt

In the light of the sudden outbreak of Coronavirus and out of our belief that “Schools can be suspended but education not,” Sun of Glory International School (SGIS) has prepared a contingency plan to contain the situation and still provide its students with the maximum possible learning opportunities while keeping them safe home. To come up with this plan the school leadership created the SGIS Contingency Plan for the Coronavirus Outbreak. The outline of this plan is below.

1. Assign a Virtual Learning Crisis Team (VLCT)

a) Team Members

Mohamed Tayseer Matter School Legal Representative and Board Member
Ragia Alakhal School Director and Board Member
Rasha Mousa School Principal
Riham Ibrahim School Coordinator
IT Department IT Team headed by Mr Karim Farid

 

b) VLCT Job Description

  1. Provide Fiscal Resources
  2. Provide Human Resources
  3. Provide Maintenance and Security Procedure Plan
  4. Provide in-house and online training
  5. Communicate with stakeholders
  6. Daily check-ins for online sessions
  7. Weekly Checklist to follow up students’ progress

c) These are the actions from our plan. (See more details.)

  • VLCT meetings
  • In-house training workshops on virtual classes and online learning
  • Devising an online 6 session-schedule including activity classes for students and teachers
  • Resending all students their Skolera accounts and passwords
  • Launching online classes to all grades
  • Preparing covered items folder for every grade to be sent on weekly basis
  • Providing staff with tutorials on creating online quizzes on school LMS
  • Online training on creating online quizzes
  • Providing students with tutorials on how to take an online quiz on their LMS
  • Launching a week trial of online quizzes in which grades are not counted but attendance is
  • Producing an awareness video as a contribution from SGIS community
  • Cognia Webinar on Effective Best Practices in Digital Learning Webinar

See details about these steps, including links to tutorials and webinar.

2. Provide the following services for all stakeholders

  • IT Department provides all stakeholders with assistance and advice round the clock.
  • IT Department devised a maintenance and security plan for school LMS
  • Parents’ and students’ feedback is collected by school PR representatives and passed to VLCT on daily basis to solve any problem or answer any question.

Submitted by:
Rasha Moussa
School Principal

Change and continuity | Florida, USA

Saint Michael Lutheran School
Little Saints Early Learning Center
Fort Myers, Florida

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, traditional school has been closed since Monday, March 16 at Saint Michael Lutheran School and its Little Saints Early Learning Center in Fort Myers, Florida. Under the guidance of Principal Kati Miser, the teachers adapted to the new distance-learning model almost immediately. After a one-day crash course, they jumped into action on Tuesday, March 17 without skipping a beat in classroom life. It helped that all of our students and teachers in grades 1–8 had already used Google apps for education in the classroom. Even the teachers in Little Saints were able to connect with the children by way of the Internet and assist parents in this new type of learning for early childhood classrooms. Teachers “Zoom” with students and parents multiple times throughout the week to provide direct instruction, review concepts one-on-one or with the whole group, complete face-to-face assessments, and allow children time to interact with their classmates. Zoom has been an effective way to help us all stay connected. It is just one more way for our staff to show we care about students. Mrs. Miser has even popped into “classrooms.”

Chapel by live-stream has continued. “Workers of the Week” are still announced because it’s important to continue recognizing student achievement, albeit online. To maintain the spiritual mission of the school, Mrs. Miser, Pastor Zehnder and teachers record YouTube devotions and messages. Announcements that used to be in written form and sent by email are now also presented in a YouTube message. Parents have expressed their appreciation and support of the teachers and the whole process.

Submitted by:
Kati Miser
Principal, Saint Michael Lutheran School

Stacie Thompson
Director, Little Saints Early Learning Center

Learning for all | Louisiana, USA

Arden Cahill Academy
Gretna, Louisiana

Arden Cahill Academy has been offering remote learning to our students via Google Classroom, Zoom Meetings, and YouTube videos. Students are still learning, but so are our teachers! While providing remote learning opportunities for our students, we are still providing professional development to our teachers via weekly curriculum meetings.

Submitted by:
Laura Martin
High School Principal

Adapting to students’ ages and technology | Mexico

Cumbres International High School Lomas
Mexico City, Mexico

In the second week of March, as in all schools around the globe, the suspension of face-to-face classes took us by surprise. It is an unprecedented situation; without a doubt, no one was prepared to face this situation.

The Head Principal, Professor Avelino Blanco, aimed the directors of each section to encourage their teams of teachers to continue the school year with the least possible interruption. They all took on the task of carefully accompanying their students, parents, and teachers during that time. Then, they kindly shared their experience of the first two weeks of school without leaving home, and here are some of the comments.

Without hesitation, without formal training and somewhat fearful, junior and high school teachers from Cumbres International School Lomas, began to assist their students, teaching online. “The inertia of the semester, the novelty of the modality, and each one’s vocation was enough motivation to become experts in a short time,” said Professor Alfredo Gonzalez, High School Principal.

“It is true that at the beginning, they delivered review lessons, but soon they retook the rhythm of the course. The lessons’ periods had to be shortened to 30-40 minutes each, to minimize the exposure to the screen,” shared Mrs. Dulce Terrazas, Junior High Principal.

On the other hand, kindergarten and elementary teachers began delivering remote classes for the younger ones.

“Teachers underwent a two-day intense training on the design, handling, production, and recording of their courses, where they modeled and explained the activities in brief capsules. These capsules are upload to a restricted YouTube channel, directed exclusively only to the students of each class, and they last between 5 to 10 minutes. Through the Educamos platform (the parents–school communication platform), teachers upload a link with the activities to carry out throughout the week,” shared Mrs. Veronica Rodriguez, Elementary Principal.

“Some teachers express that venturing into online or remote classes forced them to get out of their comfort zone and seek new strategies and teaching techniques to attract and maintain their students’ attention, engaging them in the activities. Some others admit that they have improved their technical skills and that they enjoy innovating in every session,” said Mrs. Terrazas.

Naturally, there is a wide variety of responses regarding students’ and families’ feedback, and, indeed, their opinion is directly related to the age and maturity of the kids.”

“Most high school students acknowledge that their studies are essential, especially those in the senior year. Therefore, they log on to their classes on time, actively participate, and do their homework autonomously,” continued Professor Gonzalez.

Mrs. Terrazas said that “some of the junior school students perceive that now they have more schoolwork than on face-to-face courses. They try to slow down the pace of the lesson, telling jokes to their teachers and peers. Nevertheless, thanks to the collaborative supervision of parents and teachers, students manage to complete their activities.”

It is an entirely different story for the young learners of low elementary and kindergarten because they depend on the full involvement of families to log on to their lessons daily, and to do their activities and homework. “Things are not that simple for parents with children this age. Some parents have to find an equilibrium between their job, home responsibilities, and homeschooling at the same time. Fortunately, the versatility of the capsules permits parents and students to review them in a deferred schedule and repeat them as many times as they need,” said Mrs. Rodriguez

Although there is still uncertainty if the Education Ministry will reopen schools in middle or late May, or if we will finish the school year in the new modality, we will continue working for our school community. All the stakeholders are content and satisfied with the speed and excellence in which the school responded in such a short time, preventing the unnecessary loss of classes.

Submitted by:
Claudia Arriaga Zepeda

Language Coordination

Taking a leap | New Jersey, USA

Donovan Catholic High School
Toms River, New Jersey

The administration and faculty of Donovan Catholic recognized that the Coronavirus shutdown was a possibility about two weeks before it actually happened, and we went right to work. Ms. Christine Mooney, our Director of Instructional Technology, immediately researched our virtual options, and by Sunday, March 8th, the first guinea pigs were testing Zoom. Ms. Mooney worked non-stop for the next week, providing in-person and online training.

By Monday, March 16th, we were ready to go (sort of), and many pulled it off without a hitch. I had a strong day Monday; Wednesday, I e-mailed my colleagues that I was not “on top of my game.” Don’t worry; I got back in the saddle: one Internet upgrade and new headphones with microphone, and I am back. My students have been fabulous; they help with the technology and participate fully. They are lonely, sad, and praying to get back to those uniforms they thought they hated, those hard desks they complained about, and the physical presence of everyone in the Donovan Catholic community.

We do not have a step-by-step manual with all the possibilities, but we do have each other, and Chris Mooney, Director of Instructional Technology, who continues to be available to us almost 24-7, answering relentless texts, e-mails, and phone calls, all while she cares for her elderly mom. We never could have done this without her. Thanks, Chris, from all of us at Donovan!

One positive outcome for my senior students who expect to leave for college in August is that it has forced them to become more independent, responsible, and accountable. This particularly relates to Donovan’s commitment to improve student accountability as a means to reach our performance goals.

The overwhelming challenge rests in the extensive amount of screen time that planning, executing, grading, and communicating command. Each day, I try to think of new ways to simplify without sacrificing my students’ growth educationally, socially, and emotionally.

Submitted by:
Donna Mulvaney
Teacher, Accreditation Team Coordinator

Ready for Day 1 | Oklahoma, USA

Lincoln Christian School
Tulsa, Oklahoma

When Lincoln Christian School first heard we may not be back in our buildings after spring break and may need to begin thinking about implementing distance learning, no one complained. Instead our Superintendent Trandy Birch spent every waking moment leading by example and researching best practices. His constant communication and efforts led other school leaders (principals, curriculum directors, and administrators) to follow suit.

Our preparation did not really start a few days before spring break. It started years ago when we began taking the idea of continuous improvement seriously and getting better every day. We had invested in people, technology, and processes that produce results. As a matter of fact, we had just completed our strategic plan a few days before the pandemic hit, so we knew where we were going and had developed a plan of how we would get there. So, after spending countless hours praying, developing plans, issuing Chromebooks for all ages, and training our staff, we felt ready to face this challenge head on.

Today [March 26,2020], we launched our distance learning for our 924 students PK-12. Finding ourselves in uncharted territory, we were confident we had prepared, but we were a little nervous to see how it would all play out. At the end of day 1, I can honestly say that it went much better than expected, and our students were hungry to learn. We look forward to Day 2, but we really hope this passes quickly, so we can see our students face-to-face and tell them how much they are loved in person, and not behind a screen. There is so much to be said for personal interaction, community, and relationship.

Until then, we will continue educating students through distance learning and growing ourselves professionally while learning all the newness of online platforms. Mostly, we will continue to nurture ourselves spiritually in order to educate the mind, body, and soul of the students entrusted to our care.

Thank you for allowing me to share!

Submitted by:
Whitney Warren

Secondary Principal

Making it work | Saudi Arabia

Ajial Alhadharah International School
Ibn Roshd Company
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Since day one of school closure, we opened Telegram channels for each grade. Using all of the Pearson resources, we made sure each and every student is using his Pearson account to log in and work on assignments. For each subject there’s a complete session of 60 minutes work with students via Telegram. Teachers send videos explaining the lesson content as if they were in class, share links, use strategies, and reward students for their participation. The process is going smooth and easy, thank God. We’re still willing to work more and exert more efforts to ensure that all of our students are getting the most of distant learning.

Submitted by:
Nariman Seleem

Academic Coordinator

Children First...Every Day | South Carolina, USA

Fort Mill School District
Fort Mill, South Carolina

When reflecting on the brief journey the Fort Mill School District in Fort Mill, SC has embarked on with eLearning during the COVID-19 pandemic, one word keeps coming to mind and that is remarkable. In a time when there is so much uncertainty and fear surrounding our world, there has never been more of a need for selfless acts. From the top down, our district has done an incredible job of being selfless and all playing our part to ensure we are doing everything that we can to meet the needs of our students and families during this difficult time. In a time of despair for some, we have found some tremendous positives coming out of this situation as our Fort Mill family has pulled together to learn new skills and develop ways to push out an unbelievably effective eLearning platform for our students.

Our teachers admittedly had some struggles at first and we definitely are far from perfecting the virtual learning environment, but the relentless effort of these individuals that are going through emotional times themselves has been nothing short of phenomenal. We also have had our bus drivers and food and nutrition department step up in a big way to deliver thousands of meals to our students with smiles on their faces. Our leadership, both district and school level, have been incredibly selfless as well taking on different roles to help support all employees as we navigate through these times where there are more questions than answers. Again, remarkable is the word that I keep coming back to as we look at our journey from mid-March until now. As we look at a future with some uncertainty, we will continue to make decisions in the best interest of our students and face the difficult challenges that lie ahead…together.

Submitted by:
Matt Rohring, M.Ed

Coordinator of Assessment and Accountability

Resourcefulness and resources | Texas, USA

The Williams School
Missouri City, Texas

At The Williams School, we lost only one week of learning when the shut-down hit us. Our head of school, her son for IT support, and our administrative assistant put a plan in place that utilized our Microsoft Office 365 Educator’s Edition that was already in place. We called upon our teachers to come in for 2 days to learn how to use the Teams app within that software. They then put together packets for each student, including a Chromebook, that were picked up on Friday. The following Monday, remote classes began. Our teachers worked from the school the first two days and are now working from home.

With the Teams app, our teachers are able to teach “live” using the video capability. They are working with the entire class as well as one-on-one with each student.

We are prepared to continue through the end of the school year, but hope to get back into our classrooms soon.

Submitted by:
Lisa Williams
Head of School 

Trial by snowstorm | Washington, USA

Chrysalis School
Woodinville, Washington

As schools have scrambled to transition to distance learning during the Covid-19 pandemic, Chrysalis School showed once again what’s possible. During the major snowstorms of the last couple of years, the school encouraged teachers and students to continue their learning online, despite the distance between them. It was a timely experiment that worked well and created a foundation for the necessary transition to distance learning this spring.

According to Chrysalis Founder Karen Fogle, “Our small size and flexible nature makes it so much easier to adapt to changing circumstances. And our focus on individualization lends itself to always put the needs of students and families first.” Chrysalis students already met 1-1 and in small groups with their teachers, which made for a smoother transition.

Flexible scheduling allowed changes to student schedules on the spot to make them workable for families. The school’s tech team developed a new platform for teachers to document online learning and student progress from afar, and provided support to both teachers and families. Teachers turned on a dime to create online lessons and experiences. Students only missed one day of school in the turnaround. High school classes are keeping up with their schedules and students will receive credit and grades for their courses this semester. As they look ahead to next school year and possible closures or openings, the school will be able to transition back and forth between on-site and distance learning as needed.

Academic Director Alison McNee spoke to the importance of changing goals for students and teachers during this time. “As students grapple with the anxieties of the current situation, their own fears, and the virus’s impacts on their families and communities, the most important thing we provide is connection and routine. If we can provide some sense of reassurance or normalcy during these times, we’re doing right by our students. Some are excited to continue learning, which is fantastic. Others are struggling, so we adapt our goals with each student accordingly.”

The school conducted a parent survey two weeks in to gauge the effectiveness of the new online program and adjust as needed. It received overwhelmingly positive responses. Parents were pleased with the online program, grateful for teachers’ efforts to make it happen, and saw it as a beneficial way to continue their child’s education during this time of crisis. One parent noted “I really appreciate your seamless transition to online school. So many things were up in the air at that time, the consistency of school was a blessing.” While in-person school is obviously preferred by parents, they valued the quality of a flexible online platform.

Chrysalis School is an independent school with two campuses in Woodinville, WA, serving grades K-12. For more information, please visit chrysalis-school.com.

Submitted by:
Alison McNee

Academic Director

Uncertainty, adaptability, flexibility | Washington, USA

Renton Preparatory Christian School
Renton, Washington

More than ever, during a global pandemic, we need to continually ask ourselves the purpose of education and what we want young people to be able to do. We are facing an uncertain economy, scaled back jobs, and unknowns with employment. The tech industry has been predicting for years that 40% of the jobs we once knew would be gone within the next 20 years, but they predicted that would come due to an influx in automation through Artificial Intelligence, not a global pandemic. Our preparation for unknowns has served us well pivoting to remote learning. Where others are panicking about the inability to grade during the pandemic, our assessment design, although under continuous improvement, focused more on process and demonstrating knowledge in ways that did not only require proctored exams. This allows us to continue assessing, providing a level of stability and familiarity when so much is in upheaval in students’ lives. You can read more about assessment and data in the collection noted below.

If traditional school systems do not intentionally build curriculum to help students and educators practice for uncertainty, adaptability, and flexibility, it will be harder to transition to remote learning and any series of unknown scenarios in life that may emerge in the next 18 months before a vaccine is found. We keep a pulse on where industry is headed and what future employers are looking for and consider valuable assets to hire for their companies. We work backward to adjust our learning design to help those valuable abilities to emerge through designing curriculum. This has been an intentional process for us since 2007 through original research and industry and university partnerships.

This time in history helps us to see everything in an amplified way—where systems have failed, the discrepancies and inequities become more visible, and challenges locally and globally become more evident. As the first and only Cognia STEM Certified School in Washington state, we are drawing on every technology and interdisciplinary process we have built over the past decade.

The collection provides a timeline of our COVID-19 story, including resources, videos, and a visual example of historic moments for our school.

Submitted by:
Michelle R. Zimmerman

Director, Educator, Researcher

Share your story about how you and your team are responding to the remote learning needs of your students.