Kids Under Pressure: ECASD observations

Published: Mar. 22, 2021 at 3:33 PM CDT
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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) - “There are things that we can take away from this experience. Slowing our lives down a little bit at home, at school, at work, the things that are important.”

Sherman Elementary School counselor Wendy Ferstenou has seen the toll the pandemic has made on students.

“Making more time for the social-emotional learning is huge, that kind of thing is what we need to keep from this. But I do look forward to a time when can hug and not wear masks and worry about being so physically distant,” says Ferstenou.

After more than 30 years in the classroom, Eau Claire Memorial High school math teacher Patti Campbell is retiring at the end of the school year. She believes the pandemic has highlighted the importance of a teacher’s bond with their students.

“I think that COVID has changed everybody in so many ways, teaching for sure. In life in general, we have learned really what’s important. And those communications and relationships that we build with kids, we’ve learned how important those are,” explains Campbell.

For elementary school teachers Lisa Brandt and Michelle Glaser-- physical distancing meant big changes to the way they teach and the overall way their six- and seven year olds interact.

“I think just the hardest part is keeping the kids away from each other, they want to be near each other, they want to play. But they also know we need to be safe so they’ve done a great job in following the protocols and being safe but so happy to be here,” says Roosevelt Elementary 2nd grade teacher Michelle Glaser.

“The hardest thing I think at our level is that we do a lot of partner work and a lot of small teamwork and so we’re not able to do all that this year because we have to stay physically apart. Some of the reading that we do, also in small groups it has changed how we have to teach and how we have to work together,” adds Lisa Brandt, Manz Elementary 1st grade teacher.

When students return after spring break, Eau Claire Area School District kindergarten through fifth graders will have the choice to return to a classroom four days a week, instead of two. This means for face time with students with Sam Davey 3rd grade teacher Stephanie Vierbicher welcomes.

“The kids, having them only two days a week, we make the most of those two days and give them as many tools as we can so when they go home they know what to do. And they’ve learned a lot about technology, they can go on, they can find their assignments, they can submit them through a picture, they are incredible,” says Vierbicher.

The ability of younger students to adjust during uncertain times perhaps best summed up by Sam Davey Elementary principal Joe Eisenhuth.

“The kids, we are super proud of them, they are good reminders I think to us as adults to learn how to roll with things and make adjustments and make the best of it,” says Eisenhuth.

With the number of students opting to return in two weeks - about 85-percent of K-5 students in Eau Claire will finish the school year with their classmates.

Read data from an NBC News/Challenge Success survey of more than 10,000 high schoolers about how the pandemic has impacted them when it comes to learning.

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