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Teachers at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital adjust to taking their classrooms fully virtual

Posted at 6:42 PM, Apr 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-17 19:10:07-04

All kids are doing school from home these days, and that’s no different for kids at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.

It’s certainly a far cry from your normal classroom, but for kids staying there is something to look forward to.

Jenn Mackey, who’s daughter was in the hospital April 4th thought April 12th said, “We were counting down, ‘is it time yet, is it time yet?’ So she was definitely excited to participate.”

7- year-old Charlee was there last week for a kidney injury and said it was more fun that her normal classroom.

Jenn Mackey said, “She actually earned a free ice cream coupon for calling in and participating."

Giving kids a sense of normalcy is what teachers Andrea Hekman and Sarah Smith say their lessons are all about, especially right now.

Smith, the School Liaison for the Dick and Linda Antonini Hospital School Program said, “School is their full time job, it's what they're missing when they're hospitalized and it allows us to bring a little something familiar to them every day."

Each day at 10:30 am, kids can tune into the hospitals Closed Circuit Tv for Whiz Kids Live and hands-on activities.

Mackey said the system was flawless.

“The child life worker came ahead of time and brought us the worksheet and brought the watercolors to participate along with the lesson," she said.

That system has stayed the same, except now teachers are doing so from home.

Smith said, “One of my favorite things, as goofy as it is, is that my dog is with me. Sometimes that's frustrating, because he barks in the middle of the lessons."

She said the kids love it though and have even read aloud to Smith’s dog, Tohby during one of their lesson, like they do every week with their Ruff Readers” program.

All fun aside, the teachers said there’s a few challenges with broadcasting from home.

“Sometimes we have to get a little creative for what we're doing on our end, knowing that the kids have more resources on their end,” said Smith.

Overall though, it’s also helped them grow as teachers.

Hekman, the School’s Program Assistant said, “It helps you stretch your mind and become more creative with what you’re doing and I always think that's great at any age."

Both teachers added, the toughest part of the new-normal is not getting to see their kids face to face.

“We can’t see are they understanding? is the pace okay? how are they doing with the learning? so all those assessing tools we use as educators are a little bit missing from this," Smith said.

They say they don’t know when they’ll be back in the hospital, but until then, they say they’re working to help kids meet their goals along the way.

Smith said, “That may look different than what the other kids are doing, but at the end of the day we continue to hope that they will meet those milestones too."