Kerri Smith jumped on one of her student’s trampolines, Bridgette Oubre and one of her students participated in a water balloon fight, Kami Dufour visited Grand Isle with a student and Gina Burst baked lemon poppy seed muffins with one of her students.
With schools closed since March, Norco Elementary School’s kindergarten teachers have had a little more time to participate in some new activities, and they’ve even gotten to do them with their students.
“I was trying to figure out a way to have some fun put into the virtual learning,” Dufour said of how it all got started.
One day while she was scrolling through Facebook, Dufour saw a post that one of her mom’s friends had tagged her in. The post showed a teacher who had created a flat – or paper – version of themselves for students to take along on adventures and to complete distant learning with.
“I started playing around with the idea and put my face on my bitmoji,” she said.
Once she was satisfied with the final product, Dufour brought the paper version of herself to her students and gave them a hashtag to use when posting pictures on social media so that she would easily find them.
When other teachers saw what she had created, they wanted help to create a paper version of themselves for their own students. Weeks later, Dufour estimates 20-30 teachers have latched onto the idea.
“It’s been a fun experience,” she said. “Just something to take their minds off all of the learning that’s going on and to be able to take us on fun adventures … every time I get a tag on Facebook I can’t wait to see what I did that day.”
Dufour said she hopes the activity helps her students to know she cares about them even though she can’t physically be with them. She vividly remembers how she felt on March 13, the day Gov. John Bel Edwards announced schools would be closing out of coronavirus precautions.
“On that Friday it was a half day of school and so it was rushed,” she said. “We told the kids, ‘Bye … see you Monday … have a good weekend’ and put them on the bus.”
It wasn’t until a faculty lunch later in the day that the teachers learned of the school closures.
“I instantly felt like a zombie,” she said. “That whole day I was upset because I couldn’t tell my kids ‘bye’ … it’s been really hard not being able to have that closure.”
Dufour said it was amazing to see her students’ excitement when she dropped off the paper version of herself.
“A lot of the parents didn’t tell the kids that we were coming,” she said. “It was just pure excitement.”
Oubre said her students, as well as their parents, were happy to receive the fun surprise. One of her students even made her a paper version of themselves, which Oubre recently took on a Target trip.
“I think they were definitely excited – not only for us putting in some extra effort – but for their kids to have some normalcy,” Burst said of her students’ parents. “For them … just to have a little piece of school in their house while they’re helping to support education at home definitely seemed to help.”
Dufour said she hopes the effort left an impression on her students.
“My number one hope is that my kids remember me and that they remember the fun times and always know I was there was them and I’m always here for them no matter what,” she said.