Nearly 150 elementary students just wrapped up their third and final week of the Hickory Public Schools remote Summer Learning JumpStart Program.
The free literacy and math summer program is designed to reduce summer learning loss through a nurturing environment where children are engaged in learning with excellent HPS teachers.
“My students will be rising fifth-graders in their respective schools and they are blowing me away with their efforts,” said Betsy Swann, fifth-grade English Language Arts (ELA) JumpStart teacher and Jenkins Elementary teacher during the school year.
“The second week ran more smoothly than the first as we had to get our tech-savvy skills up to par — both the teachers and the students. But we are operating without too many glitches now as we keep moving forward with curriculum and pacing competencies for both the group and individual lessons,” said Swann.
“The greatest joy of all is working with students again. I have missed them. It’s different being on a computer but we can still interact through Google Meet — making connections and getting to know their needs, both personally and academically,” said Swann.
Jordan King, who serves as a teacher at Grandview Middle during the school year, worked with the elementary students on their math skills. Summer Learning JumpStart is going amazingly well, she said.
"The students are growing as they master new skills," King said. "I even have one student who requested additional practice sheets as he wants to do more math problems. Parents are helping some, too, but they also realize the students need to do the work on their own to truly get the benefits from JumpStart.
“I wish we had a longer time with each set of children, as we are clearly seeing the rewards of this program. Their faces are lighting up when they finally understand a problem or concept. They love being online with other students and a teacher. They have missed the interaction and the learning —and so have all of the teachers,” said King.
According to Caroline Walker, a teacher at Longview Elementary who is teaching ELA with the JumpStart Program, the students are not only growing in their skills, but also in their confidence. “They are pioneers," she said. "Most have been navigating apps and the internet since they were toddlers, so it didn’t take them long to become experts at accessing google classroom and the assignments. The children are doing most of it on their own.
“The first day, parents helped some of the children with logging in and they have now become pros at using google slides for their assignments," Walker said. "Parents are supportive and they understand it is vital for their children to become more independent as they prepare for the 2020-2021 school year. These students are going to hit the ground running with remote learning in August."
Mary Rose Grimes, a teacher during the year at Jenkins Elementary, was teaching the second-grade JumpStart participants. “I am actually working from my school classroom as it’s easier to gain access to all of my materials for the students,” she said.
“I am enjoying the remote learning and find the students even more involved than face-to-face instruction in the classroom. My biggest surprise is how much the parents or adults in their lives are participating. All of the parents are active in the remote learning with their children,” added Grimes.
Sitting through 2.5 hours in either the morning session or the afternoon session feels like a long time for some of the children. Parents were provided the option to sign up their children for either session. But with either session, Julee Anderson, who teaches rising first-graders in the JumpStart Program, is making sure the children do not lose interest.
“My students are 6 and 7 years old, so I try to be as animated as possible while teaching them," Anderson said. "I am including dance, brain-breaks, and games to help keep the students stimulated and involved. During the regular school year, we have other activities such as art, physical education, and music—so I must be sure that the lessons involve some fun breaks."
Anderson, a teacher at Southwest Primary during the school year, shared that about 50 percent of her parents/guardians are actively engaged during the lessons.
“It’s very important that students have a quiet place to work with no distractions during their lessons,” she said. “The television should not be on and family members need to consider a location for quiet instructional/learning time. The children are showing growth and there’s so much togetherness with sharing our ‘Good News’ times and scavenger hunts around the house,” said Anderson.
Fridays are “Family Fridays” for the students in Lisa Hatfield’s first-grade JumpStart class. Hatfield is a teacher during the year at Viewmont Elementary.
“I was so excited to meet with each of our families. I reviewed with them how to use additional materials to help build literacy and math skills. These were materials they could do together as a family,” said Hatfield. “I loved hearing from one dad who works 12 hours a day and is not there when his daughter is involved with her afternoon session. He shared that previously his daughter would become frustrated when trying to read books to him; but now she is reading entire books to him with such confidence. Not sure who is more excited, the dad or the student.”
Hatfield, along with all her JumpStart teaching colleagues, used whiteboards and markers to help with the lessons. Children used the same tools, as well. They were also involved in interactive online programs, videos, books, and practicing songs that reinforce new math and reading skills.
“It takes lots of planning, communications and collaboration to make for an engaging and effective remote instruction, but it’s working,” said Hatfield.
Parents are providing feedback and according to one parent, Caroline McKinney, the program has been a surprising success.
“I actually have 6-year-old twins, a boy and a girl, who are enrolled in the Jumpstart Program,” said McKinney. “I chose the morning session for my twins as I thought it would be better to begin each day with the fresh start of learning. I am home with four children and it can become very busy at times. So just like during the school year, I help my children to place out their clothes at night so they can get dressed quickly in the morning, eat breakfast, and move to their learning station.
“I have found that I only need to check in with them a few times during the morning session as they are very engaged and actively participating in the lessons with their teacher, Ms. Hatfield. They do have bathroom breaks and activities that require them to stand up, stretch and get involved in some physical movement to help maintain their focus,” said McKinney.
“I believe it’s important for families to find a quiet corner or space without any interruptions during the remote lessons. In fact, the remote learning has gone so well that we have decided to allow our twins to participate in their school’s Virtual Academy for this fall semester, as they begin the first grade. That option seems to be the perfect transition for our family, and I am thankful that Hickory Public Schools is working with all the families in providing a choice," she said.
Taral Patel agrees with McKinney. His daughter participated in the JumpStart program and he shared that the program has been a great benefit for her. “The JumpStart program is preparing for what is expected of them when school starts and for the upcoming years,” said Patel.
“This program is accelerating my daughter’s learning ability and I find this very important to preparation for the return to school this fall with the hybrid/blended approach of classroom instruction and remote learning. The program gets the kids excited about learning with the perfect blend of other activities such as singing, dancing, video clips and drawing.
“This program helped parents, including me, to overcome some fears with virtual learning. Ultimately, JumpStart is helping to raise the students’ abilities to a competitive level with their peers who perhaps did not need the additional support. Our JumpStart teacher created excitement in her teaching process that helped the kids to stay focused throughout the entire session,” said Patel.
“I realize that virtual classrooms are not the same as being in-person in a school building,” said Jumpstart Site Coordinator Katherine Morningstar, who also serves as the Assistant Principal at Longview Elementary and Southwest Primary.
“I am very proud of this positive experience provided to our students during the summer," Morningstar said. "We used feedback from the spring surveys to guide our decision making. Online learning is a paradigm shift for how we design and deliver instruction, but our teachers and teacher assistants have worked very hard to make it happen."
“Our amazing team, led by Assistant Superintendent Dr. La’Ronda Whiteside, has been supported by Instructional Technology Specialist Jordan Caldwell, who created the necessary professional development for our educators; the entire Technology Department led by Director Jeff Tice; all of the teachers and teacher assistants Susan Hux, Danielle Moore; and the HPS Book Bus team with driver, Emily Teague (who also serves as a teacher assistant) and Book Bus Assistant Tina Connelly. The Book Bus has been part of the summer program, making stops at each of the five elementary schools, providing school families with the opportunity to check out books,” said Morningstar.
With 11 teachers leading the daily lessons, including support from school counselor Bailey Lail, English as a Second Language (ESL) support from Lynn Ruppard, and Exceptional Children support from Marissa Kimball, Anna Lowman, and Adina Ruff, the JumpStart teaching team includes: First grade - Lisa Hatfield, Julee Anderson, Jessica Rhyne; Second grade - Mary Rose Grimes and Tiffany Ramseur; Third grade - Jenny Wadsworth and Paula Gambill; Fourth grade - Carolina Walker and Jordan King; Fifth grade - Robert Turner and Betsy Swann.
Beverly Snowden is Hickory Public Schools Director of Communications.
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