Local Heroes, 3/19/2020, “Local Heroes,” by Parmalee Taff (pulled from the weekly eNewsletter. To subscribe, visit

Local heroes abound. Teachers, schools and parents have swiftly rallied, innovated and adapted to the big educational shift caused by the pandemic. Teachers: “It has been exhilarating and exhausting” and “I love teaching this way, although I miss my young friends” and “Nothing like building the plane while it’s flying.” Parents: “We’re developing new routines, trying to find a balance, make it work together”and “I have new respect for teachers.”

Yvette Contois, owner and art teacher at The Art Factory, invited me to experience one of her virtual art classes using Zoom. After fumbling around with the technology, I made it “in” and was impressed with how she kept the lesson moving along, managed the technology. and engaged the children. The children were at ease as if they had always done distance learning. Yvette was able to teach several concepts while giving individual attention to each child’s efforts. Well done!

Christy Hutton, Head of Kirby School, grades 6-12 shared, “In preparation for distance learning, some Kirby faculty imagined the possibilities of integrating the home environment into the curriculum and using common household objects in lessons. Others considered kits which would be sent home with students to engage in work that doesn’t necessitate a screen.

Thinking about different modes of instruction and their intended outcomes has infused the spirit of collaboration and innovation into our community. Above all else, our teachers and student leadership are leaning into the task of creating community in a time of potential isolation and ensuring that students feel connected and cared for in the coming weeks. We are using new tools like Zoom, EdPuzzle and Google Hangouts to create digital learning spaces, all connected through our Learning Management System, Powerschool Learning.

Our program rests heavily on faculty-student relationships, so we have embraced the opportunity to expand the dimensions that we use to interact and understand one another. It is also important to note that schools–public and private alike–are collaborating with one another at an unprecedented level. We are all working together to look out for our shared community of children.”

Gateway School, K-8, is using the Google platform: Google Classrooms, Google HangOuts, and Google Meet as well as email and live videos. We have just begun to use distance learning to deliver our curriculum and are confident that it will provide our students and families with the excellent education for which Gateway School is known.

“At Mount Madonna School (MMS), middle and high school teachers are using web-based tools including Zoom, Loom, videos and Google Classroom, in addition to our regular homework website and other tech tools,” commented MMS Head of School Supriya Mary McDonald. “Our elementary teachers are emailing work packets and assignments, calling parents to check in twice a week and having students regularly use ST Math and other online learning programs. All of our teachers are learning new techniques and tools alongside our students. We don’t expect that the learning will be the same hands-on experience, but extraordinary times call for extraordinary action. We are committed to staying connected to our students and families, and providing both educational and emotional support as best we can.”

From Kirby students: “We are doing great and today is Online Spirit “Sandwich” Day — our student leadership is holding these and we are all sending in pictures of our sandwiches in hopes of having the best looking lunch! From our Student Council President, Liza Gull: “Online spirit days keep the community involved, and help people not feel isolated at home. It’s great to have my email inbox flooded with photos of teachers in their PJ’s and students’ pets! I personally am super excited for “Sandwich Day” and plan on making my fantastic brioche grilled cheese.”

Well done Santa Cruz County Schools, Teachers and Families!