The Lutheran Difference: Teaching & Connecting through COVID-19

How LESA Schools are "Steering into the Skid" during the COVID-19 Crisis

Laura Montgomery, M.A., Ed.Director, Educational Resources

Learning continues for students in LESA schools amidst the closure of buildings due to the coronavirus outbreak. Many schools were on Spring Break when the transformation to e-learning full-time began, allowing principals and teachers a few days to prepare, but at the same time, surrendering well-earned time off. The result? The learning continues and better yet, the proclamation of the Gospel in our Lutheran schools and building of relationships that are Christ-centered are more important now than ever.

Schools are using a variety of online platforms to reach their students such as Zoom, Google Meet/Hangout, and YouTube. Stories are read to younger children. Class and staff meetings are held. Weekly chapel services are live-streamed or recorded and shared in addition to daily devotion and prayer time. Teachers have check-ins with students not just on academic issues, but for emotional support as well. Many schools have modified art, PE, and band to keep students engaged in these areas as well. Some schools also augment with learning packets families pick up from schools. This is also a needed option as not all students have equal access to e-learning devices or full-time Internet access.

The Lutheran education difference can be found in our relationships. “The main goal from the beginning was to keep the connections with students and families. Connected learners are going to work harder and longer to keep up with work. Parents have been very supportive of what the teachers have done and the love they have shown the kids. Now the emphasis is on preparing for the start of next year and narrowing the relationship gap before we worry about any academic gap,” stated Marc Debrick, Principal, Zion Lutheran School, St. Charles.

Our LESA schools have steered into the skid. It was unexpected, but we know that ultimately, God is at the wheel guiding our direction. “For God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Kathy Chapin, principal at Trinity Lutheran in Orchard Farm, sums it up: “God has prepared our school for such a time as this, and we are counting our blessings as we count down the days until we can actually be together.”

Read on to find out how different LESA schools are serving their students and families.

Green Park Lutheran School, south St. Louis County
"We have continued our Wednesday chapel schedule. The person that was assigned to lead chapel that day has done a recording of their service/message and we have sent that link out to the kids for Wednesday chapel. We also provide Art for Grades K-8. Our Art teacher does a once-a-week Zoom time with the kids and puts the art project description out as a recording on YouTube. She has chosen Art projects that use products they would have around the house. Band for grades 5-8 continues with some one-on-one time and once a week a full group, to keep them practicing. This week we have added PE to the mix, logging some workouts and walks/runs."
Stephen Eggold, Principal, Green Park Lutheran School

Zion Lutheran School, St. Charles
"The main goal from the beginning was to keep the connections with students and families. Connected learners are going to work harder and longer to keep up with work. Teachers are concentrating on the core subjects and not more than three lessons per week. The biggest issue for families was/is sharing band width while they work at home and having enough devices for everyone to get accomplished what was needed. Grades 3-8 have used Google Classroom to communicate academics and have students turn in homework. Parents have been very supportive of what the teachers have done and the love they have shown the kids. Now the emphasis is on preparing for the start of next year and narrowing the relationship gap before we worry about any academic gap.
Marc Debrick, Principal, Zion Lutheran School, St. Charles

"Our teachers are utilizing Google Classroom, Hangouts, and Zoom to conduct their classes. Many of our teachers are even conducting class meetings with these platforms to just simply allow the students and teacher to hang out and check on their overall mental well-being. This has been huge for students to just see their friends and create a new normalcy and routine for them to grow. In the end, our focus has been put not just on the academic side of things, but the overall relationship of the class community.
Brandon Marolf, Asst. Principal, Zion, St. Charles
(Watch an episode of eChapel on YouTube with Mr. Marolf!)

"Our e-Learning has continued to morph in ways we never thought possible in early childhood education (ECE). Weekly chapels and daily stories are sent to families via YouTube. Teachers continue to send out daily or weekly blogs loaded with photos from families as they participate in activities at home. We have a very strong connection to our families in our ECE program. Our faith connection, strong parent-teacher relationships and Zion's gift of technology make this happen. We are very blessed."
Cheryl Haun, Zion, St. Charles

Trinity Lutheran School, St. Charles
What a blessing to be a small school and to be prepared for such a time as this. We meet as classrooms each week on Google Meets where we have devotions together, and then we share, laugh, and grow together virtually. We all agree (even students) that being together at school is such a better way to learn, but this seems to be second best. Our teachers also upload teaching videos that students access. Teachers are available via phone, Google Meet, and email to help in any way. One of our teachers created a Google site that has ideas for younger children. Our teachers also put together paper packets for younger students. We know that our parents are working hard to partner more than ever in their child's education. Without our hard-working families, education would not be as effective. We are grateful for our parents who help their child log in, check their e-mails, navigate through some assignments as needed, and complete their work.
God has prepared our school for such a time as this, and we are counting our blessings as we count down the days until we can actually be together.
Kathy Chapin, Trinity, St. Charles

River Roads Lutheran School, north St. Louis
"The staff has made a tremendous adjustment to this new process and jumped in with open arms. I am really proud of the work they're doing to partner with their students so that they can be successful. We meet every morning for staff devotions on conference call for 15 minutes and once a week for a regular staff meeting to cover professional development topics or answer any questions. Every morning, I record a video to keep our students focused on the Mission ministry first by leading a short devotions with prayer, praises and stories with them through Youtube called "Blessings with Ms. Boyd." Nothing fancy, just a way to keep some normalcy with our students and staff because every morning they will gather in the school gym for morning devotions. We really miss those times. Also, within the learning plan we added a time for their Religion and Memory lessons which includes kids videos of the Bible story they're learning for the week. For the remainder of the day, the students are engaged in learning through two online, educational apps (IXL and Khan Academy, along with Google Classroom/Hangouts) that have truly helped our students engage in their learning process (YEAH!). We also include break times and exercise, art, science activities and journaling/writing videos and projects. Thanks be to God that over 50% of our students are engaged in the online process with the few technology equipment we already had in the school and what their parents provided for them. We are also excited that the Lutheran Foundation has granted us a scholarship to upgrade our technology equipment due to this pandemic. We are awaiting on the funds to make those purchases and get the other students online. PRAISE GOD FOR THAT BLESSING! Oh, by the way, the other students who are not online, received learning packets for 2 weeks at a time so that they can also stay engaged in learning."
Yvonne Boyd, Principal, River Roads Lutheran School

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