By Cynthia Mendoza
Just as ministry does not stop in times of crisis, neither does education.
As the crisis began to intensify and schools started closing down, Children’s Discovery Centers kept their doors open to continue serving their families, many of whom were still working in what are considered essential jobs. However, some parents chose to keep their children at home while continuing to pay full tuition, even though their kids were not attending.
“They’ve told us that we are their extended family,” said Laura Parker, Children’s Discovery Center director in Riverside, about the parents’ kindness. Other families have donated household items, such as paper towels, and even made financial donations.
“You never know the ministry you have or lives you’re touching,” she said.
At San Antonio Adventist Christian School, students and teachers innovated ways to stay connected, such as holding Spirit Week online. For Twin Day, for example, students picked a classmate with whom to dress alike. Students took photos of themselves in the same outfit and then shared them in a private Facebook group. Cecilia Sanchez, teaching principal, visited students’ homes, leaving colorful chalk messages on the sidewalk.
From a classroom perspective, some teachers also quickly took much of their interaction and engagement online, which was not new to some. For others, it was their first time engaging online, but they quickly learned.
At Escondido Adventist Academy (EAA), some teachers have stayed connected with students by visiting students’ homes and chatting with them from the sidewalk. Teacher April Zimmerman hosted the “Duke Tour” as she brought her dog Duke along with her for the visits. Teacher Diane McCary delivered goodie bags and hard copies of schoolwork, though most work is now done online.
Like many other schools, EAA has made challenging transitions to online learning. Teachers have done their best to schedule blocks of time to be available to their students online for general study and questions, the same way they would on-site.
“It’s been challenging, but in the long run we’ll be much stronger for having stretched ourselves in so many ways,” said Bill Davis, EAA principal.
As schools scrambled to adapt in delivering education in new ways, the SECC Office of Education also saw a need for continued spiritual connection. They enlisted the help of John Oscar Cordero and Clayton Koh, Loma Linda Academy chaplains, to create a website, seccspirituallifeconnect.com, dedicated to connecting SECC schools and homes to resources to help navigate a new learning environment in the context of spiritual, social, and emotional learning. The site contains sermons, chapels, online Sabbath Schools, spiritual and character-focused media, live chats, and links that explain coronavirus in child- and youth-friendly terms.
“The work educators are doing to provide excellent academics as well as to stay focused on mission and spirituality is to be commended,” said Don Dudley, superintendent.
Dudley added that many teachers also gave up some of their own vacation time to learn new ways of delivering education and make the necessary changes to keep it going.
“Their commitment and dedication are noteworthy,” he said.