Tara Espindola, 2nd grade virtual learning teacher at Upland Heights, said the idea for the event started with a quote about Mr. Rogers.
“It started with a quote that was circulating around Facebook,” Espindola said. “It said ‘Mr. Rogers was one of the best teachers and he did it virtually.’ So, we thought – if he can do it, we can do it!”
The group of teachers said that the event was a collective effort and it was the perfect ending to a fun week of dress up days for their virtual learners. They said it was a way for them to be able to celebrate the hard work the students have been doing, and a way to connect and engage with them.
Nicole Roberts, 4th grade virtual learning teacher at Upland Heights, said that they wanted to take the heart behind the Mr. Rogers quote and apply it to their virtual learning classes.
“We wanted to keep being loving, caring teachers,” Roberts said. “Even though they are not with us, we want them to feel that they are. All the little things we would do here [at school], we want them to feel. We want them to feel like they are still part of the Tiger family, and part of Upland Heights.”
The group said they have enjoyed being able to support not only students virtually, but also parents.
“It has been a little hard,” Espindola said, “because as teachers we know the curriculum and love the challenge to present that to the kids, but now we have the extra step of figuring out how they can access it. Learning online is a college-level skill, and they [college students] are expected to learn it and navigate it on their own, but it’s a little different for a seven year old, or a five year old. So, we have also been teaching parents how to be supportive and how to be teachers at home.”
The group said they not only teach Upland Heights students, but also have students in their virtual classes from a few other elementary schools and this event helped them put faces with names.
Kaitlen McNeill, 3rd grade virtual learning teacher at Upland Heights, said events like this make the virtual learners’ school year more memorable.
“It allows us to have that connection more,” McNeill said, “rather than just trying to connect on a computer screen.”
The group also had t-shirts made with the words “Look for the Helpers. -Mr. Rogers.” Espindola said that this is another tie to Mr. Rogers and what is helping drive them as virtual teachers.
“Another Mr. Rogers quote says, ‘When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, look for the helpers, you will always find people that are helping.’ That is what we are striving to be, even though this [virtual learning] is not ideal, we are trying to be the helpers.”