SIA Distance Learning is Out of this (Virtual) World

In a time of unquestionable uncertainty, one thing is certain, the students at the Strelitz International Academy continue to learn, engage and connect virtually with their classmates and teachers since school went online on March 16.

Early in March, no one would have believed the possibility of the Coronovirus coming to the U.S. In amazing foresight, SIA Head of School, Heather Moore, told the SIA staff to be prepared for the possibility of schools closing. Teachers were asked to imagine a virtual version of the same lessons they were teaching at school.

Janet Jenkins, Primary Years Director, created a Google booklet of the many websites and online tools to help teachers make their lessons engaging. She stated, “At SIA we take pride in delivering a quality learning experience to our students in order to fulfill our mission. The same is our goal under exceptional circumstances that may require changes to the way instruction is delivered. Should the school be closed for any reason for an extended period of time, we will continue to execute daily lessons through the means of Distance Learning. While we are unable to truly replicate the amazing interactive experiences we offer in our classrooms, we will still provide our students with meaningful instruction that meets expected standards and continues to cover grade level curriculum objectives through an online environment.”

Online Learning Program

Head of School, Heather Moore was proud to say, “When schools closed starting on March 16, we were ready for online learning. I was so proud of the faculty and staff at SIA. They have created and implemented engaging online lessons, assignments and hands on activities from the first day of distance learning. When I spoke with other schools nationwide, we have been able to provide assistance and tips on the effective distance learning program that we have implemented from the first week school was closed.”

Online Classroom

Early Years Director, Lorna Orleans knew this was going to be a learning curve for the Early Years teachers, “We are always encouraging learning off screen, and now we would be asking students to get on a screen for their learning.” Nevertheless the preschool teachers persevered, they created classroom websites, morning meetings and hands on lessons to keep the children engaged and connected to the school and each other. In a time of uncertainty, the children crave routine and engagement. The students loved Mr. Adam, SIA PE Teacher’s, active dance videos to get everyone up and moving! In addition, Media Specialist Melanie Columbus created some fun literacy challenges such as the Library Doughnut Challenge based on the book, Arnie the Doughnut. Even the infants and toddlers have been in on the action with virtual bedtime stories and Shabbat singalongs! “I felt that it was very important for our staff and families to stay connected with each other during this stressful time. Shabbat is a time to relax and enjoy each other, so we wanted to ensure continuity for our little ones,” explains Elyssa Brinn, SIA Early Years Assistant Director.

Virtual Learning

Judaic Studies Director, Rashi Brashevitzky, adds, “here at SIA we take pride in being able to continue to provide fun, interactive and engaging Judaic programming for our students from a distance.” Using puppets, stories, songs, and interactive, digital, scavenger hunts and Youtube videos, Brashevitzky has continued to ensure that our students have the necessary tools to learn about and celebrate Shabbat and Jewish holidays. Each of our Primary Years students received special Matzah to use at their Seders and will be well prepared to participate in their family celebrations due to our excellent distance learning program!

The mental health and wellbeing has been an important part of the transition to distance learning. Students are able to go at their own pace, but they are motivated by the daily instruction and connections with their teachers and classmates during class time over Google Meet. Kindergarten Teacher, Terri Kraley wrote to the kindergarten parents, “Please don’t stress – we are in this together! We understand this is a sensitive time and you are also preparing for your week: caring and scheduling for your family.” In addition, school counselors have been available for students and faculty that need support.

Moore explains, “One of the special things about SIA is the close community. I am proud to say that the SIA community and education continues to be so strong even virtually!”

Parent and board member Aaron Kass is so pleased with his children’s experiences and in awe of the dedication of their teachers. His children are currently in grades 3 and kindergarten, and his youngest will be starting in EY2 this fall. “Our family has been blown away by the comprehensive, content-driven approach, full of warmth and care, shown by our children’s teachers engaged in distance learning. It’s clear that the hours they put in “on screen” are backed up by numerous hours of preparation “off screen” and we are so thankful for them.”

Looking to enroll your children at SIA this fall? Even the admissions office is up and running virtually. We are scheduling Zoom calls and giving virtual tours, so that families can continue to enroll for the 2020-2021 school year. Email Carin Simon, Admissions Director to schedule your virtual tour today! csimon@strelitzacademy.org

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