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Long division + social distancing + creative teacher = 1 engaged student

April 28, 2020 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor




Catherine Slade works on some long division in a driveway to help a student who’s struggling to focus on learning during this time of isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Whatever it takes to connect with a student. That’s the philosophy that led a Beaumont teacher to conduct math lessons in her neighbour’s driveway.

Realizing that she hadn’t heard from a number of her students’ families in a while, Grade 4 teacher Catherine Slade sent a Google message to ask how everyone was doing. When local foster mom Barbara Kreamer responded that one of her charges was struggling to focus on learning while in isolation, Slade’s reaction was swift.

“I just said, ‘I’ll come park my butt with my coffee on your driveway and I’ll hang out with him for a bit,’” Slade said.

Within minutes of the exchange, the 17-year teacher was propped on a stool in Kreamer’s driveway, delivering a long division lesson on the whiteboard she normally uses to list her own kids’ chores.

“He went in and got his paper and pencil and put the Chromebook away and we just did some math together,” Slade said. “For me it was beautiful in the sun. I had a bit more peace and quiet as well without my kids in the background.”

Although the student is a boy of very few words, Slade could see him getting more settled as they worked through some questions and he engaged in the learning.

“I saw him smile and I saw that little light in his eye,” she said. “There were people walking their dogs and riding bikes, and all kinds of things behind us, but that didn’t matter. It was really nice just connecting.”

The impromptu lesson took place on April 16 and lasted about half an hour. Since then Slade has committed to delivering driveway lessons three times a week.

Slade’s one-on-one attention is a great relief to Kreamer, who has five children at home, ranging from grade 4 to 7. As a non-teacher, she’s challenged to keep up with her children’s learning needs.

“I was totally flabbergasted. That’s really going out of your way,” Kreamer said of Slade’s efforts. “She is absolutely phenomenal, just unbelievable.”

“It is something that I would do a million times over because that’s what I do,” Slade said. “That’s what I’m here for.”

She and Kreamer both said that teachers everywhere are taking creative and thoughtful steps to connect with students and brighten their lives, from organizing birthday parades to simply checking in with families to ensure they are OK.

“I think every teacher right now deserves a lot of appreciation,” Kreamer said. ❚


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