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From our Alumni: Working During COVID-19

Northern Vermont University alumni across our region felt shifts in their day-to-day lives as Vermont Governor Phil Scott issued a “Stay Home, Stay Safe Order” and directed the closure of non-essential business to slow the spread of Covid-19 in the state. A testament to the resiliency and grit of NVU alumni, here are a few stories in their own words. 

Rapid Shift from Gym Class to At-home Workouts

Gregory DavisGregory Davis ’16, ’18 works as a physical educator at Johnson Elementary School. 

On Friday, March 13, classes were held in-person. On Monday, March 16, we started to work toward remote learning, developing teaching plans while students gathered personal belongings from their classrooms. We were under the impression that educators would continue to work from their offices while students were at home. On Thursday, March 19, we were told that we had to work from home and use Zoom to teach. At this point, I had already been teaching some of my classes via Zoom. As a school, we then switched to GoogleMeet, another video conferencing tool. Within those first few weeks, faculty and students were adjusting rapidly to decisions made at the state level to keep all of us safe.

As a teacher, I know what to expect and how to lead my students in person. I have control over what takes place in my classroom, and I have a genuine connection with my students and am able to motivate them. Plus, I have access to resources that help me to provide efficient and effective physical education. Teaching physical education remotely was so much different and required me to adapt and focus on the basics. My primary goal was to relieve student stress by providing my students with fun physical activities they could do as brain breaks ensuring they got an adequate amount of exercise each day.

The way I managed and kept track of student participation had to change, too. I know many of my students are naturally physically active as they share all the fun activities they have been doing. I also became more flexible and allowed family activities to count for physical education as long as they communicated those activities to me. Families were doing yard work together, hiking, biking, going for walks, making obstacle courses, practicing yoga, making dance videos, and so much more. So instead of strictly sticking to my lesson plans, I encouraged students to share with me what they did to stay active.

I had to stay busy for my own well being, too. Three days a week I helped deliver meals for students, which got me up and moving early. In addition, I slowed down and focused on my own physical and mental health. I adjusted my workouts to be effective without going to a gym, and have been taking advantage of the beautiful outdoor spaces we have in Vermont to run.

Adjusting to the New Normal: Physical Therapy During COVID-19

Emily Slayton ’15 is a physical therapist at Sunrise Physical Therapy. Emily Slayton

I am a physical therapist at a small outpatient orthopedic clinic. Before COVID-19, the clinic was bustling. We were busier than ever. On any given day there would be four or five therapists working, which meant four or five patients in the clinic at a time. Plus, people were often early for their appointments and lounging in the waiting room chatting and reading magazines. There could be ten, maybe twelve people in our tiny clinic at once. But now, five people in the clinic feels crowded. 

When we first returned to work, only one therapist could work at a time. This meant just two people were in the building at a time the PT and the patient. We also adjusted our patient scheduling. Instead of allowing 45 minutes for an appointment, we now book everyone for an hour to allow for more time to sanitize equipment and all surfaces the patient touches. So not only were we working alone, but we had 15 minutes of quiet between appointments, which never happened before unless you were the last one out!

I have to wear a mask all day, but I don’t mind it. Other day-to-day changes include putting the hand sanitizing station outside in the morning, taking extra time to clean and sanitize between patients, asking a few more questions during an intake phone call, and demonstrating an exercise to a patient via a screen during a telehealth appointment. I’m  happy to be working and considered essential for our community. Our patients still need care and I’m happy to be at their service. Our clinic serves skiers, runners, hikers, bikers, and more. As long as Vermonters are active, we’re here to help.

Kindergarten Moves Online

Megan CavanaughMegan Cavanaugh ’17 is a Kindergarten teacher at Morrisville Elementary School 

We closed schools in mid-March due to COVID-19 and have been adapting to remote learning ever since. There are so many challenges, and so much uncertainty, but our community in Morrisville has adapted well and our school has stayed strong. In Kindergarten, we do host one morning meeting a week on Google Meet. Every student logs in, we read a story, share with our peers, and do a scavenger hunt which the students love! Sitting down all together listening to a teacher talk is not a typical situation in a kindergarten classroom. The scavenger hunts, which range from “go find something that starts with the letter T” to “find something that you have three of,” allow students to move and stay engaged with their academic skills at the same time.

We also do a few small groups a week where students meet with one or two teachers and three or four of their peers to practice academic skills. Most of these groups focus on skill review. Any new learning is done online using Seesaw as a portfolio platform. Using Seesaw, we post videos of ourselves teaching lessons; the pre-recorded style allows families flexibility throughout their days. While some activities are more direct lessons, others I create involve going outside and doing a nature-based or other creative activity.

Academics aside, the most challenging thing about remote learning for many teachers, myself included, is the lack of relationship we have with students. I’m used to hugging each student every day. I’m used to checking in one-on-one and playing alongside them. Students are having this same struggle  many of them miss their friends and teachers. It is a challenging way of doing things for sure. But what’s amazing is seeing how everyone has come together to make remote learning work.

While there is uncertainty about how we will start next school year, I know one thing is true  the teachers, families, and community will work together for the betterment of all of our students.