Staying Connected
As educators navigate unprecedented obstacles with limited resources and guaranteed uncertainty, New York State educators lead the nation in their acceptance of this challenge. Throughout our state, administrators, teachers, and school personnel have demonstrated their extraordinary dedication, support, and commitment to their students and our children. From teacher parades for students to food and technology deliveries for families, New York's educators have risen to this challenge!

The New York State Education Department wishes to highlight the exceptional dedication of our educators with examples of emotional support, equitable solutions, and instructional practices utilized to stay connected with the students of New York State during this period of building closures. Read more below for stories that have been shared with us recently, or, if you have your own stories to share, please visit our Submit Your Stories page for additional information.
Would you like to receive future Staying Connected emails?   Use the Subscribe button below.
Little Miracles Recognizes Not All Heroes Wear Capes
Little Miracles Pre-School

At Little Miracles, we offer a program for young students diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Located in Staten Island, Little Miracles is the preschool/early childhood education center of Eden II Programs. Our program utilizes the principles and procedures of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to address academic and social deficits, as well as to provide behavioral support. Our mission is to support people with autism throughout their lives to achieve their full potential through service, science, and passion.

Our staff and families have always given back to those contributing to our community. During this pandemic, our educational team has created different activities to honor and thank the "heroes" in our lives.

Heroic Health Care Professionals

Thank you to our first heroes...all the health care professionals, direct support professionals, emergency first responders, and essential workers. The students and families of Little Miracles created and printed out over 100 "Thank You" pictures and letters, made by our students, and sent them to hospital staff members. On Staten Island, members of Northwell-Staten Island University Hospital received individual packets. Each envelope held a special student-created "Thank You."

Health care workers with thank you signs created by preschool children and their teachers

Heroic Educators

Our next "Thank You" was delivered to our caring teaching staff, as our virtual learning would be nothing without their dedication and hard work. While learning new skills can be tough and challenging at times, our teachers have embraced this challenge with confidence, faith, and hope. To thank your educators, our principal and team of coordinators spent the day driving to the homes of each teacher, therapist, and teaching assistant, visiting each staff member with a special message of appreciation and a hand-made gift. Nine hours spent driving to over sixty homes on Staten Island was well worth it after seeing the smiles we spread all day long.

Teachers holding thank you cards and gifts from students

Heroic Students

Our last token of thanks and love was created for our students. To us, they are heroes in this story too. Our students have had to endure changes to every aspect of their lives. Their routines have been flipped upside down, and some still have difficulty grasping and understanding our present situation. We miss the smiles, laughter, high-fives, and the hugs and kisses from our students each day. Our staff have come together, with hearts full of love, to share some hope and bring smiles to our students and their families. We made a special video to let them know how much we love and miss each one of them!

Morning Greetings Encourage Connection
Vernon Verona Sherrill Central School District
Since the school closure began, we at Vernon Verona Sherrill High School have worked to establish three goals for our students, and even turned them into hashtags so students could easily remember them. The hashtags are: #StayConnected, #KeepLearning, and #TakeCharge. The goals stress the need for our students to take control of their learning and reach out to advocate for themselves. Even without in-person learning, there are still a multitude of options to help students stay motivated and remain on track with their studies. Our High School Morning Greetings are motivating our students to keep learning while also ensuring they stay connected.

To create a sense of stability, our High School Morning Greetings start with the same music and logo and end with the same encouraging words. The anticipated outcomes were that students would log on in the morning to view the message, and then remain online and ready to check in on assignment progress, new postings, and classwork activities. Another anticipated outcome was that students would feel more connected to the school community when seeing familiar faces and hearing positive messages.

An unexpected outcome was the community's eagerness to participate! We have had community members, alumni, and even past guest speakers reach out to provide one of the positive daily messages. Students have reached out as well to share inspiring messages and encourage their classmates. One more unexpected outcome was the incredibly creative videos that teachers have been creating. Our district keeps learning about many of our teachers' hidden talents! From a shot-for-shot opening credits scene of Full House, to a recreation of The Lion King's opening scene, teachers have welcomed students into their lives in ways that they have never done before.

Vernon Verona Sherill High School Morning Message
Using the Writing Process to Spread Kindness
Schenectady City School District
Student author reading published book online
In Schenectady City School District, a K-12 urban district in a mid-size city in New York's Capital Region, students and educators have been spreading kindness in online opportunities supported by the 21st Century After School Program and the Writebrain books program. Students are meeting in live online video sessions to support each other in writing, editing, and revising, with the goal of completing their books and becoming published authors.

Students regularly share compliments and respect for each other. Additionally, these students are participating in a service learning project by donating copies of the books they write to their school libraries and creating videos where they read their stories online. These videos are posted in district digital learning platforms, and provide younger students, who might not have someone available to read to them, with educational and entertaining opportunities to exercise their imaginations while bolstering their literacy skills.

Student and parent sharing student_s published writing through video conference
Many of the students bonded over the realization that they wrote about similar themes, and several wrote books incorporating kind strategies for overcoming situations with bullying. Literacy specialist Rebecca Benjamin reports, "Meeting virtually has given us the opportunity to collaborate on academic projects and book-writing, and has also allowed us to foster relationships and build our communities." Student authors have reported developing confidence and pride in their reading and writing as a result of this program, and a hope to inspire others through sharing their work.
PSA: Sleepy Hollow Students are GRATEFUL!
Sleepy Hollow Middle School
Sleepy Hollow Middle School is a wonderfully diverse community that sits along the Hudson River in Westchester County. It is through our collective diversity that the school and district thrive. We challenged eighth grade students to create a public service announcement (PSA) in an effort to:
  • Support our students' social emotional learning. Being quarantined at home, unable to see their friends and hang out at their favorite spots in town is difficult to handle. As teachers, we wanted our students to get a break from the emphasis on the detrimental aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and spend some time focused on what makes Sleepy Hollow such a great place.
  • Utilize effective methods for digital delivery. While not directly connected to delivery of instruction, the staff recognized the popularity of TikTok and decided we could use this platform as a catalyst for students. Many students created their TikToks to identify what they thought made Sleepy Hollow special.
  • Provide a creative approach. By offering and encouraging the use of TikTok, we felt we would be providing a creative approach to reach many of our students and engage them.
Students began to work, and with their creative minds, they put together their TikToks, videos, photos, collages, notes, and messages to make a public service announcement (PSA). In a time where the focus was (and is) on the harsh realities that we all face, it was necessary that the students focus on the aspects of their community in which they find comfort.

As always, our students exceeded our expectations. Collectively and independently, the eighth grade students identified the same five aspects that they appreciated or were grateful for. These five areas were ultimately edited into a PSA. All materials (photos, videos, notes, etc.) in the PSA were generated by the students. The content, ideas, and emotions are student generated as well. Through the PSA, the wonderfully diverse community of Sleepy Hollow's eighth graders communicated their collective gratitude for: their friends, their teachers, healthcare workers, having fun, and their family community!

Staying Connected Sleepy Hollow 2020 PSA