Solana Beach superintendent finds creative ways to connect with students
When schools reopened in the Solana Beach School District in September, Superintendent Jodee Brentlinger could not wait to begin visiting school classrooms and reconnecting with students and staff, while adhering to health and safety mitigation measures.
Brentlinger wanted to do more, so she combined her love of teaching and reading with a new way of engaging with students on a district-wide level, creating weekly read aloud videos called “Where Mrs. Brentlinger?”
With a nod to the book series, “Where’s Waldo?”, the superintendent challenges students to identify where she is in the district while reading a weekly book. She creates one video for primary grades and one video for upper grades, and the first correct respondents receive that week’s book for their school libraries.
Using a green screen for the unknown location, Brentlinger speaks to students as if sitting at the front of each classroom, while hoping to build connections and share a love of books.
“I’ve received emails and ‘thank you’ cards from students, and teachers, saying how much they appreciate the ‘Read Alouds’ and this truly helps me keep going,” said Brentlinger. “This year has had so many ups and downs, and these wonderful stories and illustrations provide a brief respite and oftentimes a new, much-needed perspective on life.”
Following a read aloud video in which the superintendent encouraged students to create their own art masterpieces, Carmel Creek School teacher Kathy Shaffer’s second grade class combined a lesson in art with the Read Aloud.
Solana Pacific School teacher Becky Riley said her sixth grade classes watch Brentlinger’s read aloud videos both in person and simultaneously on Zoom, and then they discuss the book.
“The students enjoy guessing the school sites the superintendent uses as virtual backgrounds,” Riley said. “My student, Chase, was one of the first to guess ‘live’ during her visit to our classroom early in the fall. He followed her down the hall to guess the location....accurately!”
The pandemic has created challenges for education professionals throughout the world, however, passion, imagination and determination are helping educators connect with students in new ways that may continue even after the pandemic subsides.
“Driving through the neighborhoods in our district and when I see students on the playgrounds, or even when I enter our classrooms, I receive the warmest greetings and students know my name,” said Brentlinger. “It gives me a great sense of joy that we can create a link among our 2,800 onsite and online scholars at a time when personal connection is needed more than ever.”
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