This school year started and finished in ways no one could have envisioned, and the sustained resilience of our students was remarkable. As faculty, we accompanied our students every step of the way—from the hybrid learning beginnings to a mostly-normal-but-with-masks end to the school year. It was not easy, and we’ve come a long way.
Above all else, we found ways to care for our students while offering robust instruction both digitally and in-person. The way our students and their families responded to the challenges of this school year offers so much hope for the school year ahead.
Last spring the world was turned upside down, and with it, everything about teaching and learning. When the 2019-2020 school year ended, we knew it was important to assess our work as a fully online program and then take time to evaluate what would be best for our students. How do we care for them both academically and holistically? The importance of returning to as much normalcy as responsibly and safely possible became evident to faculty and school leadership. For most students, “normalcy” means sitting at a desk, in a classroom, and having face time with their teachers and peers.
When we began the 2020-2021 school year with the synchronous hybrid learning model, we leaned into our Ignatian value of cura personalis. We paid attention to each student’s individual needs and tried to care for them as much as we could, whether the student was a remote learner or was attending classes in-person. We had to be constantly mindful that our students were living through and surviving a pandemic with their families while being a student at Gonzaga Prep. We worked through our curriculum, but were sensitive to the workload. Where it made sense, we offered grace and leniency. Ultimately, we understood that the students were balancing surviving the unstable nature of the school year with their families while engaging in college preparatory classes.
As faculty, we are often the first ones to see when students are starting to struggle. When that happened in the midst of this school year, we found that the more face-to-face time we could get with them, the more likely students would be to get the help they needed to succeed. Some help came in the form of well-established resources including the Counseling Center, the Academic Success Center, and the Learning Resource Center. A faculty mentoring program facilitated by the ASC’s Danny Pearson `00 provided a new way for teachers to work with students. One silver lining of this challenging year was discovering that we can offer even more personalized academic support thanks to the ease and access of video conferencing tools. What used to be a back-and-forth email thread could readily become a quick Google Meet video call with a family. Students could get almost instant tutoring through the Academic Success Center by just clicking a Google Meet link. These are tools we’ll keep and expand upon as the pandemic subsides.