Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 23/6/2020 (576 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Like schools around the world, Mennonite Brethren Collegiate Institute had to adjust quickly to continue providing the best education possible for its students when the COVID-19 pandemic forced it to close its doors.
The results have been impressive due to a combination of good fortune, a dedicated staff and committed students, principal Andrea Neufeld said.
"It’s about how quickly you can mobilize," Neufeld said when asked for her reaction in the pandemic’s early days.
"Students are the heart of our work. We’re committed to learning and to our students."
That philosophy imbued every decision the staff made, Neufeld said. The process began with leadership teams meeting frequently to plan strategy. Those teams made some key early decisions, including adopting the use of the Edsby digital learning and data system for the entire school. That created consistency for both staff and families, as both groups only had to learn just one system.
Those regular early meetings were crucial, and Neufeld credited staff for their strong collaboration and willingness to try new things.
"They dug deep, took risks, and got creative right away," Neufeld said. "Lasting impact for the positive. That was our only filter — only do what has lasting power."
She also stressed that, as an independent school, MBCI can make decisions more quickly than those within a school division.
MBCI employs a shared leadership model for its staff, which helped teachers adjust to digital classrooms, Neufeld said. Those most comfortable with technology helped peers who were less confident with the sudden switch.
There were plenty of bumps along the way but that didn’t deter anyone, Neufeld said.
"We focused on good things all the way. We celebrated every single week and prayed together."
Neufeld said that sense of togetherness within MBCI’s staff filtered down to the students
"When kids can feel connected and cared for, learning can happen."
Many positives emerged from the format switch, Neufeld said. The different environment and creative approaches to lessons allowed some students who were often quiet in the classroom to be more active contributors. The school’s project-based learning approach was also a good fit for the new reality.
Administrators also kept in touch with parents, surveying them to see how they were adapting to the technology. Chromebook laptop computers were provided to all families that needed them.
As a result, instruction continued in all courses, including the drama program, which took a creative approach to the pandemic, Neufeld said. The drama students learned voice acting techniques, developed a radio play and studied silent films.
Band students recorded their sessions for the teachers.
"We’ve kept the rigour and kept the innovation," Neufeld said.
Community correspondent - East Kildonan
Tony Zerucha is a community correspondent for East Kildonan. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org