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Communication and teacher appreciation took top priority in this district’s COVID strategy

The eSchool Media K-12 Hero Awards, sponsored by Trox, highlights inspiring examples of education during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic is far from over, and that means educators across the globe are still finding inventive and innovative ways to support and teach students in classrooms, during hybrid instruction, and in virtual settings.

The eSchool Media K-12 Hero Awards program, sponsored by Trox, recognizes the determined and dedicated efforts of educators throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Never before have educators been challenged and tested as they were, beginning in March 2020 and up until today, and never before has their resilience been more apparent. Administrators, technology leaders, classroom teachers, and educators in all roles have persevered as they taught each and every one of their students during a global pandemic.

Here, eSchool News highlights Hannibal School District #60–one of its K-12 Hero Awards finalists. Keep reading to discover how this district keeps learning going in the middle of a global pandemic.

Nominee: Hannibal School District #60

Nominated by: Trox

What makes this nominee a hero?

The Hannibal School District #60 is located 116 miles northwest of St. Louis, Missouri, in a town of the same name with a population of nearly 18,000 people. The district has approximately 3,700 students and comprises an Early Childhood Center, five elementary schools, one middle school, one high school and a technical school that serves its high schoolers and students from six other areas sending schools.

The Hannibal School District #60 employs nearly 600 staff members, including nearly 260 teachers. When the pandemic forced the district to move to an all-remote learning environment in March 2020, it was not at all prepared, says Superintendent Susan Johnson. “I don’t think I’ll ever forget what I was doing on March 16, 2020, when we had to make the decision to move to all-remote instruction. At that moment, I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders.”

First and foremost, Johnson and her team needed to devise a way to communicate to parents, students, and staff members. She also began quickly assembling a list of every group within the community that could play a role in ensuring that students could continue their education in a healthy, remote setting.

“For a year now, we have hosted weekly calls with representatives from the mayor’s office, local hospital, health, and social services departments, United Way, and more to address the needs of our student population. It’s amazing to see how everyone came together to support us,” she says.

While one of the district’s elementary schools was nearly 1:1, it was far from being able to provide every student with a mobile device to use at home. However, with the help of Trox, a leading edtech provider, every staff member and student from the second grade through the 12th had access to a Chromebook within six months of going remote. In the spring of 2021, the district was able to outfit its K and 1st graders with Chromebooks.

“We were able to rely on our contact at Trox to find available device inventory. The compassion Trox had for helping us during this trying time was incredible,” Johnson says.

For Hannibal School District #60, the challenges brought on by COVID-19 were not just limited to a lack of devices. Nearly 60% of the district’s student population is on a free or reduced-price lunch program. “I knew that despite the difficulties, we still had a responsibility to prepare meals daily for our students and their families throughout the summer,” Johnson explains. That is where the community really stepped in and helped. “We had staff from most every department in our district stationed at several of our school buildings preparing meals, loading them on a school bus, and delivering them throughout our community to children and their families” she says. “During the summer of 2020, we were providing as many as 1,000 meals a day for our students whose parents or caretakers would come by the schools to pick them up.”

With professional development, online instruction became easier for the district’s teachers. Concerned about learning loss and understanding the importance of staying connected with our students, our teachers worked diligently to remain a part of their students’ daily life. Johnson says that one takeaway from the impact of the pandemic is a renewed appreciation for educators. “Some people look at teachers and think they have an easy profession. The fact that they have had to adapt to first a shortage of technology and then an onslaught of new virtual classroom solutions–all while getting through their lessons–really shows how resilient and committed our teachers are.”

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Laura Ascione

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