In early March, Jessica Harraman, a first-grade teacher at West Field Elementary and product of Edmond Public Schools, was named the 2020 Edmond Teacher of the Year. Six weeks later, her world (and that of every teacher in the district) turned upside down when the Oklahoma State Department of Education announced that schools must cease face-to-face instruction and move to distance learning.
“Routines and a sense of normalcy are especially important to young children, so ending school early has been difficult on some of my students,” said Harraman. “However, parents have been reaching out to express their gratitude for providing a variety of ways for students to stay connected with our class.”
Harraman hosts Zoom meetings on Mondays-Thursdays. This helps to provide her students with routine opportunities to engage in social conversations with their peers. One student had to miss the first week of meetings but was finally able to join during week two.
“When she popped up on the screen, she immediately started crying once she saw her friends’ faces for the first time in weeks. She is seven years old and was overwhelmed with joy at the simple opportunity to see her classmates again,” recalls Harraman. “It was a touching moment, and it made every challenge that comes from navigating this new platform of continuous learning well worth the extra work and effort.”
Harraman embraces creativity and themes to make her Zoom meetings new and engaging.
“On Tuesdays and Thursdays, our class Zoom meetings are in the evenings and are themed ‘Show and Shares’. I send out the theme beforehand, and students get to bring something they want to show the class or think of something to tell the class for that night’s theme,” she said. “Our animal theme was a big hit as students shared their favorite stuffed animals and pets of all shapes and sizes! We also do scavenger hunt nights where I will give a description of something and they have to quickly find something around the house that matches that description to share with the class.”
Harraman also posts quick videos of herself checking in on her students each day to her class SeeSaw app. In the videos, she asks a question for them to respond to. For example, she’ll ask them to tell her about something they have done at home to help keep their bodies healthy.
“Then, students send me their responses by writing a comment on See Saw, recording a voice memo, or sending me a picture/video in an email.”
During the videos, Harraman also reminds students how much she loves and misses them. “I want them to understand that I am here for them. My desire is to make an impact on their lives every day.”
West Field Elementary Principal Crystal Smith said Harraman’s continuous learning has been just like her classroom teaching: engaging, fun, and creative.
“There are great teachers, and then there is Jessica Harraman: the Mary Poppins of education,” said Smith. “She leverages every single asset to the benefit of all of our students.”