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Virtual Vikings are Extraordinary Distance Learners

With education transformed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, students have adjusted to new ways of learning using a multitude of digital tools. Seaford High School recently launched its Virtual Vikings recognition program to highlight students who “despite these unique and challenging circumstances, are bringing great energy and fortitude to their academics.”

Assistant Principal Nicole Schnabel said 101 students from grades 9-12 were selected for this distinction, based on teacher recommendations. Every teacher could select a few students who have demonstrated exceptional commitment to their studies during the distance learning period.

Sophomore Jimmy Manzick was nominated by his science teacher, Janine Cupo. He said that he misses the face-to-face interaction with his teachers in school as well as the hands-on learning opportunities like experiments in chemistry class. He does enjoy the Zoom videoconferences that at least allow some personal connection.

“It’s just so different than what we were used to doing,” Jimmy said, adding that he regularly keeps in touch with teachers through email.

Social studies teacher Samantha Feidner nominated senior Sophia Sackett. For Sophia, distance learning has increased her reliance on online resources, such as videos and informational websites. One class where she really feels the loss of the daily interaction is art and being able to get immediate feedback from her teacher.

Junior Kyle Grof and freshman Myles Schnaier were selected by health and physical education teacher Stephanie Bartkus. They both noted that they were already very familiar with their laptops, provided through the district’s Personalized Digital Learning Initiative, so that has eased the transition to remote instruction.

Myles said that having a routine is very important, and he tries to mirror his school schedule as best as he can in completing his daily assignments. He added that his teachers respond very quickly when he reaches out with questions.

For Kyle, Zoom video chats are beneficial in connecting with his teachers and classmates. Like other Virtual Vikings, he eagerly awaits a return to the hands-on instruction that school offers, like in his photography class where his teacher could show him in person how to use the different camera settings.

“You have to adjust to not having the teacher teaching you one-on-one,” he said.

Senior Michael Savino, nominated by both social studies teachers Jenna Davis and Karyn Metzger, said remote learning has involved a lot of reading as well as some quizzes and essay writing. While the type of work hasn’t been vastly different since school closed, the biggest adjustment has been establishing a new routine. He uses the Remind app to contact his teachers.

Participation in extracurricular activities has also changed. Junior Mary Branche is a member of Best Buddies, which pairs general education students with their peers in the life skills program. She said she misses seeing her friends on a regular basis, although they have connected over Zoom. Jimmy, a member of the World Culture Club, said the group has stayed active through virtual cultural celebrations.

Mary, selected as a Virtual Viking by American Sign Language teacher Jenna Lubicich, said that in addition to completing her assignments each day, she also makes time for self-care which includes exercise and relaxation.