Throughout the weeks of distance learning required by the pandemic, Monona Grove School District reading specialist Erin Verhagen continued to have a grounding effect for students and families.
“I want students to feel safe and excited to learn,” she said. “We need to connect with each other in order for them to feel that way.”
Connection has been foundational to Verhagen’s teaching philosophy since long before the pandemic.
“A trusting and caring relationship is essential to a working relationship,” she said.
Through recorded phonics lessons and book talks, Verhagen continued to build that relationship with her students. Recorded lessons and corresponding assignments were delivered to students on their iPads and Chromebooks. Recorded book talks – short videos in which Verhagen described a book, read a few pages and encouraged students to keep reading – were also sent to students.
“By doing recorded phonics lessons and book talks weekly for classes, I get to say hello and continue the work we were doing at school,” she said. “Meeting with students virtually is the most fun, because I get to see their smiling faces and laugh with them and give them feedback in real time.”
Verhagen also worked hard to double up her connections with students, especially those who were not be able to participate in scheduled meetings.
An email and recorded lessons are not the same as person to person, so Verhagen also sent cards and notes by mail.
“I want students to know I am still here for them and care about their learning,” she said. “Plus, who doesn’t love getting snail mail?”