COVID-19 Diary: Marie Richards, Assistant Principal and Academic Advisor at Sacred Heart Academy

Marie Richards has been in education for 12 years, and been the assistant principal and academic advisor at Sacred Heart Academy for eight. While educators are used to facing new challenges each day, the challenges she – and educators across the nation – have faced in the past few months have been something entirely different.

In her role as academic advisor, she helps seniors decide their next step, fill out scholarship applications, remind them of deadlines, keep them up-to-date on their senior year checklist, and much more. Under normal circumstances, she would be able to see a student in person – even passing in the hallway – to give them a quick reminder about an upcoming deadline for a scholarship. Now, she’s relied on e-mail, Zoom, and text messages to communicate those reminders and other important information.

This week, she released a video of students announcing their decision about their college plans, which normally would have been done at a Senior College Decision Day party.

“It’s not the same,” Richards says. “It’s not as good, in my opinion, but we’re trying to come up with solutions to provide as many of these same opportunities for these students as we can.”

This is her COVID-19 diary.


MARIE RICHARDS’ COVID-19 DIARY

Saying goodbye to the Class of 2020 amid a pandemic has been one of the most challenging experiences we have faced as educators. It was at the end of February that our administration and faculty began to plan for distance learning with staff meeting trainings on how to record/upload videos, fully utilize Google classroom, and become familiar with virtual meeting programs like WebEx and Zoom. We were viewing distance learning as hypothetical at that point with no idea that March 13 would be our last regular day of school. With such an abrupt change of schedule, our students and teachers had to adjust to distance learning very quickly. Aided by the fact that we can fortunately provide Chromebooks for our students through a previous STEM fundraising effort, our students never experienced a gap in receiving instruction. Although we are continuously working to improve our delivery, it has been amazing to see the resilience and adaptability of everyone involved, especially our seniors.
 

Without question, we will not take these seniors for granted. In fact, they will always be remembered.

- Marie Richards

Since the end of March, seniors have participated in online discussions with their teachers and classmates, shared virtual art projects created from supplies found within their homes, received feedback on final papers, and designed layouts for their own Robotics’ fields. On May 13 seniors completed their AP exams remotely and presented their final theology projects via Zoom. For all of us, expectations and situations have changed significantly, and we are trying to respond to these challenges as best we can.

Normally, I would have hosted a Senior College Decision Day party on May 1st for our seniors in recognition of their acceptance to college and to celebrate their future plans. Instead, I am having a video created where each senior is showcased as they share his or her college selection. As with so many things for our seniors right now, it is not an ideal solution, but we are making it work.

While graduation is an important ceremony for students and families, which we hope to still hold this summer, it is the other end-of-high-school-career that will be especially difficult for seniors to miss. For example, with places like Cedar Point closed for the foreseeable future, our seniors will miss out on their senior trip. Following our senior honors banquet where scholarships and service cords are distributed, the last week of school for seniors is very memorable with a series of events including an alumni welcome lunch, senior retreat, senior graduation Mass, last school walk through to say goodbye to teachers and younger students, and senior/parent brunch.

We want our seniors to know how important they are to us and not get lost in the uncertainty, so we have made every effort to recognize them through personalized yard signs delivered to their homes, social media postings, and an Adopt-a-SHA-Senior program. Our hope remains to provide as many of these meaningful experiences as possible for the Class of 2020 knowing that not all traditions will take place in the usual way.

I have so much admiration for the strength and fortitude seniors everywhere have shown, exemplified in what SHA senior Molly Yonker shared with me: “Although it’s been difficult to be unable to see people or finish out my senior year the way I had hoped, I now have a greater appreciation for interactions and simple things that I used to take for granted.”

Without question, we will not take these seniors for granted. In fact, they will always be remembered.

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