Como principal shares thoughts on distance learning in COVID-19 times

By Eric Erickson

In mid-March, educators across Minnesota followed the executive order of Gov. Tim Walz to begin preparing for distance learning. At Como Park High School, staff intensively developed and modified academic content for an entirely new form of online instruction and delivery.

Classes resumed on April 6. There were many smiles shared among students and teachers in virtual classrooms via video conferencing on the Google Meet platform. Despite expected glitches and frustrations in navigating new systems, the initial implementation of distance learning proved relatively successful by Como staff.

Steering the ship for Como Park High School, Principal Stacy Theien-Collins has worked tirelessly to coordinate many moving parts in a rapidly developing situation. She shared her thoughts about the dramatic changes in an interview after the first, full week of school in the Coronavirus Quarantine.

Q: How do you feel Como’s students and families have responded to the educational disruption and change to the distance learning format?

A: Our students are amazing. The understanding, patience and gratitude for all we are doing have been a consistent message from both our students and families. I want to express my gratitude to our students and families for how supportive and understanding they have been as our team has worked to ready for distance learning. I would also ask that everyone continues to let us know how we are doing. We expect that we will have to adjust along the way as we learn this new platform together.

Q: From your administrative perspective, what would you consider to be some early successes with teaching and learning for Como staff and students?

A: There are so many. I have received messages from students, staff, family and community members with small successes—like “I did it! I was able to use Google Meets”—to larger celebrations of the plan SPPS has put in place for technology access and meal access. Our students and staff are communicating the gratitude that they are back in school and reconnecting. The success of our work relies on our relationships, so our celebration most certainly includes being back in session.

Q: How are you, as the building principal, handling the stress of this educational challenge?

A: This certainly is a stressful time for all of us and for many reasons. Besides worrying about our school community and planning, we are all worried about the news, our health, the health of family and friends. However, I believe all of us are using that to fuel our planning for our students and deliver creative, engaging academic content and support to serve all our learners.

Q: During this unprecedented time, is there a message about Como you would like to share with the larger community?

A: It is important to me that our community knows how committed we are to support our learners. The uncertainty of the past few weeks and of what is to come makes me grateful that I am a part of the Como Park Senior High community. Our students, families and staff are the heart of our community. Together, we are rising to the challenge.

Eric Erickson is on the faculty of Como Park High School where he is a social studies teacher.

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