When the executive order came for schools to close their doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many Lutheran school teachers had just one weekend to prepare for online learning. While many schools in our state have struggled to continue what they were doing to keep the students learning, Lutheran schools in the Michigan District, LCMS have been leaders in adapting. Travis Grulke, Superintendent of Schools for the Michigan District, is extremely proud our teachers: “They stepped up and said, ‘Let’s do this.’”
Grulke knew it wouldn’t be easy, given how quickly the Coronavirus response transpired in mid-March. “The teachers said, ‘We’ve got a short time frame to look at, but let’s put together some resources and great things for our students.’” Grulke believes our teachers have done just that.
The classroom has changed from brick-and-mortar buildings to Zoom conferencing. Tammy Mazur, a third grade teacher at Our Savior in Lansing really didn’t know much about Zoom before the pandemic, but now she’s on it every day. She says, “I am still doing what I’m called to do, but not in the way I was called to do it.”
Creating entirely new lesson plans, recording videos, and holding video conferencing sessions has increased the teachers’ workload during the pandemic. Mazur puts in extra hours making sure she connects and engages her students.
At this point in the school year at St. Michael in Wayne, the middle schoolers would be creating castles and a big portfolio project about the middle ages in their classrooms. Changes have been made and this project is now taking place at home and online. “It’s not the same, but I’m still excited that I’m able to do those same activities,” said St. Michael’s middle school teacher Heather Gruenhagen.
Meanwhile, the kindergartners at St. Michael are getting the chance to be leaders and teach some of the lessons that have been planned out for them by their teacher, Dina Matasovsky. Matasovsky has created new plans that engage and motivate her students because she isn’t able to be with them for all those hours during the day. “It’s forced me to think outside the box, which has been good,” said Matasovsky.
For Mazur, Gruenhagen, and Matasovsky, this time away from the classroom and only seeing their students online has been difficult. All admit to missing their students. This time has also given them a renewed perspective and Mazur said, “It’s really made me appreciate those relationships we’ve had with our students.”
Grulke, who has three daughters learning online from Lutheran school teachers, still sees the education happening at a high level. He has been amazed at the ability of these teachers to adapt to the new online format. Grulke said, “We joke around a little bit that, even if we had five months to prepare, it probably wouldn’t have been as good as what we just did in the 48-plus hours to get this done.”
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Photo and video by Jeff Heisner/Michigan District, LCMS