Denison teachers, staff go extra mile for students

DISD
A Houston first grader received individual instruction from teacher Lana Coffee while classmates completed a work assignment on their laptops. “It was scary at the
beginning of the year not knowing how the virus would spread, but then I thought, ‘I have to be there
for the kids. If I don’t teach them, who will?’ They need us,” said Coffee.

Denison has long been known as a “Home of Heroes”: U.S. President and General Dwight D. Eisenhower, United Airlines Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger, and renowned Viticulturist T.V. Munson, to name a few. During the Covid-19 crisis, that list has grown dramatically to include thousands of Denison first responders and medical personnel --- as well as hundreds of DISD teachers and staff who continue to ensure that Denison students learn and grow, academically and personally, in safe and nurturing environments.

“From the very start, our teachers and staff have been united in their tremendous and unconditional support for our kids,” said Denison ISD Superintendent Dr. Henry Scott. “We resumed in-person instruction at the start of school on August 13 while also continuing to provide virtual instruction for at home learners, a tough challenge that our teachers quickly embraced. The word “can’t” just isn’t in their vocabulary. The belief has always been that every child can and will learn if we teach effectively, and that hasn’t changed. We’re just so blessed to have so many great people who teach and care for our kids, during good times and bad.”

According to Scott, it has taken a village to continue the kind of seamless education that keeps kids from falling behind: DISD’s technology specialists who quickly secured tablets and internet access for all students; curriculum experts who designed instruction models that would keep virtual learners engaged and interactive with classmates; digital experts who made Zoom a dependable way of communicating and connecting; maintenance workers, custodians and cafeteria workers who ensured safe facilities and nutritious food; principals and teachers who encouraged, motivated and inspired the troops to greatness.

Hyde Park teacher Shannon Rosas teaches at-home and in-class students simultaneously, using her SMART Board and Zoom to keep both groups engaged and
involved in learning throughout each school day. “Navigating instruction with two learning locations is
not an easy task, but our teachers have met the challenges head on,” said DISD Director of Instruction
Shonda Cannon. “They have mastered the art of designing engaging lessons for both learning
modalities.”

“I am so proud of the manner in which our teachers have approached instruction in the midst of a pandemic,” said Shonda Cannon, DISD Director of Instruction. “Navigating instruction with two learning locations is not an easy task, but our teachers have met the challenges head on! They have mastered the art of designing engaging lessons for both learning modalities.”

Houston Principal Kyle Uber said he is so proud of how his teachers have dealt with stress in so many creative and wonderful ways.

“This year has been like no other,” said Lana Coffee, who teaches first graders at Houston. “We have had to create new ways of teaching in our classrooms while also changing the way we do things throughout the school. Teaching online students simultaneously with in-class students has been difficult, and there were days of crying and questioning if we would make it work. But when we suddenly had children coming up to us and saying that they love school and love being in our classes, it made it all worth it.

Dedicated DISD teachers like Courtney Johnson, who
teaches 6th graders at B. McDaniel Intermediate School, have utilized books, computers, SMART
Boards, Zoom, special projects and individualized instruction to keep virtual and in-class students
actively engaged in learning throughout the pandemic-plagued 2020-2021 school year. “We’re just so
blessed to have so many great people who teach and care for our kids, during good times and bad,”
said DISD Superintendent Dr. Henry Scott.

“I really feel like it was the right thing for me to be in my classroom, face-to-face with my students,” continued Coffee. “It was scary at the beginning of the year not knowing how the virus would spread, but then I thought, ‘I have to be there for the kids. If I don’t teach them, who will? They need us!’ At that point, the fear went away. We are all longing for the days of being back to normal with our kids in class. I feel like we have made a difference in the lives of children and been a safety net for them and for each other this year.”

Natalie Hicks, Principal at Mayes, says her staff members have risen to the top. “They have developed plans to keep students healthy while doing their best to establish some sort of normalcy in their lives. They have taken risks by entering this building each day, but have done it with enthusiasm and excitement. I have seen teachers working on Zoom with virtual students while having a classroom full of in-person learners. They have learned to juggle while still finding engaging lessons for students. The fear of the unknown has not stopped our teachers! They are happy to be here with our students each and every day. These people are essential, and I believe all parents learned just how valuable our teachers truly are last spring, when all students were learning at home. I have personally seen so many DISD staff members purchasing masks, constructing classroom dividers, showing kids the proper way to wash hands, helping and giving in every way possible. I cannot thank our people enough for going above and beyond the call of duty, every single day.”

Lamar teacher Katy Price and her second graders sharpen math and vocabulary skills during high-energy sing-alongs and exercises that facilitate core subject
mastery. “Denison teachers and staff thrive on relationship-building and have set aside their own best
interests, in the midst of the pandemic, for the interests of our students,” said DISD Superintendent Dr. David Kirkbride. “I could not be more proud of our Yellow Jacket Family.”

David Kirkbride, DISD’s Assistant Superintendent, said words aren’t adequate to express his deep appreciation to staff members.

“DISD is the heart of the Denison community, and I believe our employees understand and appreciate this so much,” said Kirkbride. “This year has been monumentally difficult, but our employees have stepped up and are working through it with great success. I have consistently heard employees across the district express that they do what they do out of an unrivaled concern for our students … which comes as no surprise to me.

“One thing we have always known in Denison, but is now abundantly clear, is the power and impact of our relationships with our students and their families. Denison teachers and staff thrive on relationship building and have set aside their own best interests, in the midst of the pandemic, for the interests of our students. I could not be more proud of our Yellow Jacket Family. It is indeed Great to be a Yellow Jacket, and of course --- We Are Denison!”

Hyde Park teacher Amber Allen helped her students improve vocabulary and critical thinking skills utilizing an interactive lesson entitled Other Ways to Say Things. “I am so proud of the manner in which our teachers have approached instruction in the midst of a pandemic,”
said Shonda Cannon, DISD Director of Instruction.