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Class during COVID: West Middleton Elementary

NBC15 launches year long project following classrooms across our viewing area to see how COVID-19 impacts students and schools.
Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 5:30 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - All students in the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District started the school year virtually. As a parent whose first child began school this year, it’s certainly not what I imagined. It was a tough transition, but we’re getting into a groove.

Miss Amy Aschenbeck connects with her kindergarten students for their live morning meeting.
Miss Amy Aschenbeck connects with her kindergarten students for their live morning meeting.(Leigh Mills, WMTV)

Miss Amy Aschenbeck teaches kindergarten at West Middleton Elementary School. I spent a morning watching her run her virtual kindergarten classroom from her actual classroom. I’ll be following this kindergarten classroom all year to see how COVID-19 is impacting the students and staff.

“Happy Thursday!” says Miss Amy Aschenbeck cheerfully as she starts her live morning meeting with all of her kindergarten students, “Give me one thumb up if it’s going good. Give me two thumbs up if it’s going great!"

Miss Amy Aschenbeck connects with her kindergarten students for their live morning meeting.
Miss Amy Aschenbeck connects with her kindergarten students for their live morning meeting.(Leigh Mills, WMTV)

Aschenbeck connects with her 19 students on Zoom four days a week for a 30 minute morning meeting.

“Good morning, Ethan!” she says as she greets each student and give them a turn to share something about themselves, “What is your favorite animal?”

“Good morning!” Ethan replies as he waves to his friends, “T-Rex!”

“A T-Rex!” Aschenbeck exclaims, “Does anyone else like a t-rex or dinosaurs? Show me that connection if you like them, too.”

“That’s where we focus on that relationship building and that community building between myself and the kids and the kids with each other,” explains Aschenbeck.

It also includes an activity and some curriculum, including practicing handwriting and math skills.

“Can you count me down?” asks Aschenbeck after asking the students to predict which shape comes next in a pattern, “3! 2! 1! Flip! Who guessed rectangle?”

Miss Amy Aschenbeck teaches one of her kindergarten students how to hold a pencil during a live zoom.
Miss Amy Aschenbeck teaches one of her kindergarten students how to hold a pencil during a live zoom.(Leigh Mills, WMTV)

Aschenbeck also leads live, small groups for reading and math.

“We’re going to start with a bump back around and you’re going to keep your pencil on the page,” she explains during a handwriting exercise.

She also meets one-on-one with each student once a week.

“We can check in to see how well they are mastering that asynchronous learning, because we’re not with them when they’re getting their learning videos,” explains Aschenbeck, “And we’re not with them when they’re doing their independent activities.”

Miss Aschenbeck zooms with one of her kindergarten students for their weekly one-on-one meeting.
Miss Aschenbeck zooms with one of her kindergarten students for their weekly one-on-one meeting.(Leigh Mills, WMTV)

Before school started, students and parents met their teacher online to help break the ice and get to know each other. Aschenbeck asked my son some questions, and one exchange in particular had us all laughing.

“Who else do you live with?” asked Aschenbeck.

My 6-year-old son replied, “Dad, who is 42.”

“Dad is 42! Don’t tell me how old Mom is!” Aschenbeck joked.

While this is her seventh year teaching, Aschenbeck says even she is learning something new this year and embracing it.

“My job right now is to be as amazing as I can be as a virtual teacher,” explains Aschenbeck, “I’m just doing my best to keep positive and helping my parents and families with whatever they need to be successful and help their kid be successful at home... I feel good about it."

The timeline to return to school in-person for the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District varies based on the student’s age. For kindergartners, the district is planning to start using a blended learning model on October 12. The school board will vote on that plan at its meeting on September 28.

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