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Teacher Parades, YouTube Story Time and Christmas in March: School Spirit During Coronavirus

The coronavirus has led to the closure of bay area schools. As students adjust to online learning, local educators are getting creative to keep their classes connected and in good spirits. 

Lauren Perez teaches second grade at Pride Elementary School in Tampa. When schools shut down, Perez did what a lot of teachers are doing these days. She made a video.

"Good morning, boys and girls," Perez began her video. "I know we haven’t been able to have our morning meeting, and I miss you all."

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"Across the bay at Pinellas Park Elementary School, Caitlin Gumiela created a YouTube channel called “Ms. Gumiela Luvs You.” When Gumiela poses a question, students type their responses in the online classroom.

"Today’s question is what is your favorite snack? I’m sure while you guys are at home, you guys are snacking a little bit. So tell me what your favorite snack is. Maybe I can go get some of that myself," Gumiela said before launching into the lesson. "So today as you’re going ahead and reading through your PowerPoint, remember to take your time."

Gumiela had to postpone her April 4 wedding because of coronavirus. Her fiance, Brandon Anderson, appeared in one of the videos as a guest reader.

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"Hey, Ms. Gumiela’s class," Anderson greeted students in the video. "I’m going to read chapter 3 out of Miss Porter Is Out of Order. The title of the chapter is Fun, Fun, Fun.

At Kids Community College Preparatory High School in Riverview, “fun, fun, fun” meant having a virtual spirit week. The themed days were pajamas, Christmas in March, crazy socks, social distance twins and Disney.

"It was just a lot of fun to know that our school family is still connected, even though we are virtually learning and working from various places," said Campus Director La’Keshia Cook.

Some educators are going the extra mile—literally. On a recent morning in Wesley Chapel, about 40 cars full of Sand Pine Elementary staffers paraded through the neighborhood surrounding the school.

"I have a Jeep, so we had the Jeep decorated with some holiday decorations on there and some other things. I was playing the song ‘Happy’ as we were driving by," said Principal Christina Twardosz. "We stayed away from handing out the candy just because of the social distancing. We didn’t want to draw all the kids together. And then also us handling it and then giving it to them. We didn’t think that was a good idea."

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Even without candy, the parade was plenty sweet.

"The children and the parents were coming outside. Actually, they had made signs. They were waving signs of support back to us," Twardosz said.

There was a similar scene in Riverview, where fifth grader Sophia Mills watched as a teacher parade from Boyette Springs Elementary drove by her block.

"It was really cool," Sophia said. "Everybody in a line came through and honked their horns, and everybody waved.

Sophia’s mom, Samantha Mills, said these unusual times come with a silver lining.

"I think it’s kind of a new opportunity for her to get to know the teachers a little more, since they can send private messages, like she’s been sending her art teacher all of her artwork that she does at home," Mills said. "At this time, we’re all finding new ways to do things stuck, at home."

As students continue to be stuck at home, local educators will keep finding new ways to inspire them.

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