When developing your playbook as an educator, you learn very early on that only two things matter:

  1. You are strong in establishing a well thought out plan for delivering differentiated instruction of which you are knowledgeable, 
  2. That you are even stronger at being flexible on the fly when that original plan must be completely thrown out for some reason or another. 

In 2020, every aspect of our national education system from the department of education to the local classroom teacher in your city or town was thrown the curve ball of all curve balls. It tested our strength, ingenuity, and commitment to continuing the advancement and education of our children in the face of something there was simply NO PLAN FOR.  

For the most part, school districts and systems individually banded together and found a way in the midst of it all to strive for a new standard of excellence and deliver for our students. As a nation, that alone should be applauded.

I would like to personally commend and express my admiration and appreciation for my daughter’s school. This year was significant for my daughter in many ways. It was her first year at a new school, her first time attending a charter school, and it was also her kindergarten year. Through the One APP process we got lucky enough to receive one of my top three choices at a First Line Charter School of excellent reputation that they have more than lived up to throughout this year. 

As a parent, I was pleasantly surprised in their outreach communication, sense of community, as well as the faculty as a whole’s involvement and investment in individual student character/academic growth. As an educator, I believe they went above and beyond in their ability to continue this level of commitment even in the face of a pandemic. 

From March to May, there was daily virtual instruction, in addition to enrichment offerings such as garden class, art, dance, etc.  To encourage continued student learning they mailed out workbooks and readers, and motivational incentives to encourage students to continue independently accessing the portals to their reading and math gaming programs. The staff was also a great support to the parents in this time by being available for daily office hours (via phone), calling to check in b-weekly, and emailing a report at the end of the school year with a detailed description of my child’s grades and academic standing. 

While all of this is impressive, the thing I appreciated most as the mother of a kindergartener was the way they continued to connect with their students. For many students, a commencement or promotional exercise will either be done in a new drive-by or virtual form, and sadly some will not be done at all. I was glad my daughter had the experience last year when leaving her preschool of having a cap and gown ceremony in which they were honored and celebrated, but was overjoyed when her charter school sent out messages with invites for their virtual last day celebration. 

They virtually ate breakfast with their teachers and individual kindergarten classes, sharing memories and sentiments of how they missed their teacher and their friends. This was followed by one large meeting of all three kindergarten classes together in which one teacher read “Oh the Places You’ll Go” By: Dr. Seuss, another played guitar and sang “You’ve Got a Friend In Me,” and the final teacher thanked and praised them for all their hard work before ending with a slideshow of memories captured over the course of their year. 

What this experience has taught us all, is that one’s ability to be able to adapt to unforeseen change is invaluable. Looking forward to the upcoming school year, teachers across the country will no doubt be preparing differently in many ways. My daughter’s school is offering virtual summer classes throughout the month of June. There is also talk in educational circles of possibly implementing district wide preventative  measures such as smaller class sizes, social distancing of desks, a later starter to the year with perhaps a later calendar ending in order to alternate school days, etc. 

In this new age of social distancing, my daughter’s school found a way to keep their school community together and provide a sense of connection and support for our children and I am so grateful. From the bottom of my heart, thank you to First Line Charter Schools for all that you did in the face of this historic moment in time. Can’t wait to see you all next year!

Melissa Bagneris is a kindergarten teacher in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana where she is an active member of the school-wide positive behavior initiative system. She earned her bachelor’s degree and state certification in early childhood education from the University of Louisiana and was voted 2020 Teacher of the Year at Washington Elementary STEM School.


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