Staying Connected
Over the last few months, educators have navigated unprecedented obstacles with limited resources and guaranteed uncertainty. Throughout the crisis, New York State educators have led the nation in their acceptance of this challenge. Across our state, administrators, teachers, and school personnel have demonstrated their extraordinary dedication, support, and commitment to their students and our children.

The New York State Education Department wishes to highlight the exceptional dedication of our educators by shining a spotlight on some of the examples of emotional support, equitable solutions, and instructional practices utilized to stay connected with the students of New York State during school 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.
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Moving Up Day, Cheektowaga Middle School
Cheektowaga Central School District

Cheektowaga Middle School moving-up ceremony picture montage

A graduating student stands with his family at the school_s front entrance
My name is Brenda Christopher and I am a Special Education Teacher at Cheektowaga Middle School. I co-teach several 8th grade ELA classes with my partner, Jill Orlowski. One HUGE event for our 8th graders is their "Moving Up Day," a ceremony during which we recognize their accomplishments and celebrate their moving up to 9th grade. Due to the pandemic, that too has been canceled. Some students had already bought their suits and dresses and would not get to wear them, and had been voicing their disappointment.

In an effort to still celebrate them and give them the opportunity to wear their new outfits, we organized a "Drive Up Moving Up Day." Parents and their families drove up to the parking lot where they were greeted with balloons and music. Principal Handford announced the students' names as they exited their vehicles to take a quick picture in front of our main entrance. Some students decorated their cars too! The photo (above) of the balloon with the "5 B's" represents the character traits we teach at our school: Be on time and ready, be kind, be safe, be responsible, and be respectful. After their picture was taken, students received a certificate of completion along with a "swag bag" complete with a "2020, the year I was QUARANTAUGHT" t-shirt, candy, and bags of chips.

While this has been difficult, my partner and I work tirelessly to provide the best education to our students that we can. We look forward to returning to school when it's safe, and seeing the faces that depend on us.
Lean On Me
Nyack Public Schools
Nyack faculty perform _Lean on Me_
Staying connected during a global pandemic has become an extra-challenging task, but also a work of love, in our close-knit community. One way that the faculty at Nyack Public Schools has responded to this challenge has been to create outreach videos that provide positive messages, encouraging tips, reminders, and resources for students and their families. These initiatives build community, show support, promote social emotional learning, and remind students how much we care. We are Nyack-Strong.
Tecumseh Teacher Organizes Getty Museum Art Challenge
Tecumseh Elementary School and Eastern Suffolk BOCES
Students recreate classic artwork
Tecumseh Elementary School Art Teacher Loriann Christian collaborated with colleagues in the Art Department across Eastern Suffolk BOCES to create a lesson to get students involved in the Getty Museum's Art Challenge. This activity soared to instant popularity on the internet where quarantined folks recreated masterpieces featured in the famous museum's online collection using ordinary household items. Tecumseh is an Eastern Suffolk BOCES school that provides services to students with special education needs.

Photos of students recreating classic artwork
Christian and a colleague co-authored the lesson, which she shared with her students using an online student engagement platform suited for distance learning. She provided information about the museum and instructed students to visit it online, choose their favorite piece of art, and then recreate it using anything at their disposal from home. To provide an example, Christian recreated King Tut's Golden Mask by dressing up as the pharaoh himself.

Christian was thrilled at how well all the students incorporated everyday objects into the task. However, what surprised her most was the positive responses she received from parents. "So many of them emailed me to say that the challenge was a wonderful family activity," she said. "Students and family members took it upon themselves to recreate multiple images, which went beyond the scope of the assignment."

Pictures, from top to bottom:
  • Isabella, Longwood CSD, sixth grade, recreated The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.
  • Matheo, Bay Shore UFSD, second grade, recreated Homage to Bonnard by Fernando Botero with the help of his father, who served as the model.
  • Giovanni, Longwood CSD, second grade, recreated Royalty Dog by Romero Britto.
  • Aiden, Comsewogue UFSD, third grade, recreated Jeanne (Spring) by Édouard Manet.
High School and College Counselors Unite During Unsettling Times
Nassau County
Counselors engaged in professional learning using web conferencing software
A turn of events took place as the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic hit Long Island, New York. School counselors and administrators formerly unfamiliar with online communication became savvy out of necessity. School counselors worked together to "figure it out" and deliver counseling services to their students with the support of the "Open Forum for School Counselors," established to help the helpers.

Anastasia Kokonis (Program Coordinator, Guidance Technology and School Counselor Support Services, Nassau BOCES) began collaboration with Gina Christel (President, Nassau County Counselors' Association) and Mary Harrison (Nassau County Directors of Guidance), offering the "Open Forum for School Counselors." By popular demand, it is being offered weekly.

The Forum offers school counselors the opportunity to share ideas, best practices, and challenges during this pandemic. It has also been requested that the meetings continue once schools re-open and for the 2020-2021 school year.

Guest speakers have participated, offering "chair yoga," a segment on mindfulness, as well as a panel from local and out-of-state colleges to address current issues senior students are facing, and insights on the current state of college admission testing, social emotional learning, and summer school. Upcoming topics include financial aid and future college admission testing.

For additional information, please contact Anastasia Kokonis