Story – Teachers
Celebrating the Contributions of Teachers
Lia Nishikura has been a teacher at Koloa Elementary School for 7 years now. When schools moved to at-home learning due to COVID-19, her classes met daily on Zoom. She also used the Seesaw app for her students to complete activities and for her to communicate with parents. Lia said that “Fortunately enough, my students have been using technology throughout the school year so I don’t think it was too much of a transition for them”
But keeping a class full of kindergarten students engaged on Zoom is not an easy task. She told us that “I think the biggest challenge was to make it engaging for the students and to entice them to come back each day. The end of the school year is usually a real fun and exciting time in kindergarten and this year it was challenging to incorporate learning and still have fun while not getting to see them in person.” But Lia found ways to stay connected to her students and encourage them to show up for learning. For example, even after their lessons were finished, she stayed on calls and bonded with students over things like Pokémon cards.
Lia said that “another challenge has been coordinating and preparing lessons that are convenient and easy for families to participate in. Families already had so much to worry about that I wanted to make sure that the online lessons were easy to access.” Lia recognized that it was not always easy for families to adapt to this new way of learning and she prioritized that in her approach to teaching.
In addition to making the lessons convenient for families, Lia also incorporated social emotional lessons to help her students cope with these new life experiences due to COVID-19. Throughout the school year, she had been teaching her class about perseverance. She has also always tried to create a safe space for her students to talk about their feelings. She wanted to continue these lessons in their new online format.
She said, “I think that the social emotional part of the weekly lessons were probably the most important component and it was what I looked forward to the most. We learned important skills such as knowing the difference between things we can and cannot control, identifying our feelings and safe ways of dealing with how we feel. I think during that time, the students just needed a safe place to talk about their fears and it was important for the students to know that they were not alone in how they felt. I also think that just signing on and seeing their friends helped a lot of the students”
In addition to empowering her students with these coping skills, she also taught them gratitude. For example, her class created artwork to thank first responders. It was clear from talking with several families that Lia truly loves her students and is committed to helping them and the entire Koloa community.
One of the parents who nominated Lia said that “Lia exudes the concept “love what you do, do what you love”. Another parent told us that Lia “makes learning fun for her kids and really takes the time to get to know her students. She makes them feel seen and she is able to inspire them individually based on their interests and strengths.”
Lia told us that her school pulled together and that she is “so proud of the teachers who stepped up for their students during this time of adversity. I am especially proud to be part of a school where the staff had a “gung-ho” sort of attitude and jumped right in. A lot of teachers at our school were going above and beyond expectations, no questions asked. It made me so proud to be part of a school community like that.”
We are so grateful for teachers like Lia who are committed to helping their students, especially during these challenging and changing times. There are so many wonderful teachers who are doing this important work and we encourage anyone reading this story to show your appreciation for the teachers in your life.
Lia shared with us that “In the end, I think that the students are going to be able to take something positive from all of this. They will have gotten to see a community and island pull together and hopefully it will give them the realization that they too can get through anything.”