The pandemic brought challenges, but it also offered opportunities to reimagine education – SC Times

Our final days with students have come and gone. While school year endings are always bittersweet, this year feels more so than most. In many ways, we were just getting back into a rhythm this spring. It’s been tough to say goodbye to our students and families for the summer and even more difficult to say farewell to our graduating seniors. 

It’s hard to describe the ways the last fifteen months have impacted our schools. For all the challenges we’ve faced, and there have been many, we’ve seen unprecedented changes in instructional delivery and student support. We’ve been required to consider decades of past practice and intentionally decide which serve our students well and which need to be discarded. 

We better understand that learning can and does happen everywhere, and skills such as self-advocacy and perseverance need to be taught and celebrated. 

Our students and staff demonstrated resilience as they adapted to new technologies and used these to empower virtual collaboration when in-person learning wasn’t possible. At times, students were the most proficient in their use of technology, and they supported us in learning new skills. Our teachers, student support teams, coaches, and advisors found creative ways to help students stay connected to our schools by hosting online tutoring sessions, lunch groups, after school yoga, and virtual team practices. Despite the separation, our students and staff remained committed to one another and to making the best of challenging times. We are thankful for their dedication.

Parents, guardians, and families were also stretched in new ways over the past fifteen months. They were asked to provide unprecedented levels of support to their children while balancing work, caregiving, and distance learning. Assisting children in acquiring new skills and maintaining focus despite the numerous distractions at home is no easy feat. We are deeply appreciative of the support our families provided.

Although the pandemic brought new challenges, it offered us an opportunity to reimagine education and revitalize partnerships. We learned to rely on each other for help, and as a community, we proved ourselves to be more resilient and creative than we knew. Additionally, our broader community now more fully understands the critical role public schools play in educating, feeding, caring for, and enriching the lives of our children and families. The greater St. Cloud Area has understood this for years, and we are grateful for this community’s ongoing support.

Together, we accomplished tremendous things as we navigated the upheaval of our lives and education as we knew it. We are confident that out of a challenging year, we have emerged stronger.  Each of you have been working tirelessly for months, and we hope you find time to revitalize and recharge this summer.

— This is the opinion of St. Cloud schools Superintendent Willie Jett. Superintendent Spotlight is published in the St. Cloud Times on the third Sunday of the month and features the superintendents of the ROCORI, St. Cloud, Sartell-St. Stephen and Sauk Rapids-Rice districts.