No one would have imagined that many of the daily lessons learned in Mrs. Howell’s computer science and journalism classes would become fundamentally necessary to understand and apply as Sacred Heart School pivoted to distance learning.
Zooming into distance learning
Starting in second-grade, all students are introduced to Google Classroom in their weekly technology class and learn how to sync their Google profile while logging on and off the computer. All of Mrs. Howell’s classes have a virtual component that has seamlessly integrated into the distance learning classes.
As an early-adopter of distance learning, Mrs. Howell has been able to utilize breakout rooms to encourage student collaboration and engagement. A breakout room in Zoom can be set-up for 2-3 students to work together and discuss their work similar to how they would work in small groups in an on-campus classroom. The students have enjoyed getting the time to interact and talk with their peers while working on projects.
“Sacred Heart is blessed to have Mrs. Howell because she is such a positive, professional, and goal-oriented teacher. She always challenges and comes up with ideas that make our students better both in the classroom and in their student-lead organizations,” remarked Mrs. Marlo Siron. “I am lucky to be able to work so closely with Mrs. Howell and her creative, upbeat attitude makes everyone around her feel good about what they are doing, including me!”
A yearbook for the history books
Distance learning posed a unique challenge for the desktop publishing class that also creates and publishes the two Sacred Heart yearbooks annually. “We did not feel comfortable going to each of the students’ homes and trying to take a photo of them during this pandemic so we came up with a new approach,” said Mrs. Howell. Thanks to the support of our religion teachers in grades 7-12 the two programs (religion and yearbook) collaborated on a schoolwide project over the past two weeks that has garnered over 800 photos and personal stories from 96% of our students.
This has allowed the yearbook staff to capture the unique perspective of each of the students during this state-mandated lockdown. “We are very grateful and impressed with the visual stories submitted by all of our religion classes,” said Howell. “We could not have made the yearbook this great without their support. There are some very talented writers and photographers at Sacred Heart. I can’t wait to have all of these students take my journalism classes over the next few years.”
Get Your 2020 Yearbook
Students in grades 7-12 may purchase their yearbook before school ends on this historical year by visiting http://jostensyearbooks.com/.
Students in grades PK-6th should contact Mrs. Howell directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teamwork among teachers
One of the benefits of distance learning has been that Mrs. Howell has been able to spend more time collaborating with fellow teachers and sharing tips about how to adapt traditional teaching strategies to the virtual classroom.
“Mrs. Howell and Mrs. Siron helped me test out Zoom, and then from the first day of Distance Learning (Wednesday, March 18), their support has been unwavering,” said Ms. Jane McMullin. “I am learning all of this technology as I go and there hasn’t been a week yet that I haven’t needed help with something! I am so impressed with how well we, here at SH, have been able to continue educating our students at a high level. This is completely dependent upon the assistance of Mrs. Howell and Mrs. Siron. Their hard work and dedication to SH during this time has been amazing!”
“She never asks anything from her students that she does not expect from herself. Her enthusiasm for any tasks she undertakes is boundless–and she does it all with the most beautiful smile that lights up everyone’s day,” stated Mrs. Marcia Turner. “I am proud to call Nikki a colleague, but more importantly, I am proud to call her a friend. Thank you, Nikki, for helping me so much as I struggle with the technology of online teaching and for all that you do for Sacred Heart!”
Parents as teachers, teachers as parents
The biggest challenge that Mrs. Howell has faced is one that all of us can relate to as well. Balancing working fulltime from home while helping her own children, Logan and Piper who also attend Sacred Heart, with their studies. “It has been wonderful getting to watch my own children become more independent and responsible as they have also embraced distance learning,” said Mrs. Howell, “I am very grateful for this opportunity to continue to teach my students at Sacred Heart while in quarantine.”