When the effects of the coronavirus pandemic started to take shape, teachers found themselves physically separated from their students and the daily encounters of school day life.
Toll Gate Grammar School teachers decided that on May 21 a renewed connection to the students was needed with a good ol’ “Teacher Pop-up.”
While maintaining social distancing, the pop-up on South Main Street in Pennington was near the entrance of the school. Teachers lined up on the side of the street waving their hands and signs showing support for the families and students of Toll Gate, who engaged them across the street or in their cars as they drove by.
“All of us talked about how we miss our kids so much and not having interaction with them except for on a computer. We were just so excited to be able to come out here and actually see them and wave to them,” said Deanna Provenzano, first and third grade math and reading teacher at Toll Gate. “You can’t imagine how much we miss them and we know how much they miss us. Teaching them online everyday is not the same as them being here in person.”
She added that it is overwhelming to see the students out also showing support back to the teachers with signs and waves, whether it was across the street or in a car.
“It is making me tear up. This transition to remote learning was a tough change and took a lot of flexibility. We got it down to a pattern and think we are doing really great with it,” Provenzano said. “Most of us have a little classroom in our houses and dedicated rooms to our classrooms. This is a great community because the parents, families and the children all put in the effort. We love that about them.”
The teachers hope the student’s takeaway from the teacher pop-up sighting that they love them and how much they miss them, according to Provenzano.
The idea for the teacher pop-up began on May 17 and was set for May 21 once the weather was determined.
For special education teacher Nicole Sebastian, she said being out there on South Main Street was one of the best days she has had so far.
“It was very important for me to be out here. Just being able to see everyone and the smiles on the children’s faces is the best part,” Sebastian said. “It has been hard not to physically be with our students, but we have been lucky enough see them over the computer. It is not the same, but at least we get to see them.”
She added that she also hopes the students know the teachers are here for them and cannot wait to be with them again.
Kim Drewes, first grade teacher at Toll Gate, reiterated the notion that it is nothing like seeing her students in person compared to online.
“You are not just their teacher, you become a part of their lives. It really is tough for all of us, students and teachers,” she said. “We are all doing a phenomenal job during this period, from families to teachers. Being out here and seeing them also support us is just nice.”
Drewes added that this demonstration by teachers was needed at this moment in time.
“We have been dying to connect with them in some way and it is all about family and community. We definitely have been missing that and wanted to show them we are still here and not to worry,” Drewes said. “This is going to be memorable that is for sure.”