Drive-thru pop-up provides continuity

Happy Instructors
Dr. Maria Fe Laguitan captures a cold-weather selfie on handout day.
Packets for ESL
ESL packets created by each instructor for students.
Pop up tent
The canopy tent provides visibility and a bit of shelter on drive-thru day.
Social Distance ESL
Instructors and pedestrian students practice social distancing protocols during packet pick-up.

SCCC’s adult basic ed instructors create individualized packets for ESL students

LIBERAL, Kan. (March 26, 2020) — Most of the students who attend adult basic education courses at Seward County Community College have experienced disruption before. It comes in the form of political unrest, immigration, or other forms of upheaval. Now, coronavirus has interrupted daily life, including ESL and GED classes that were intended to help students chart a new course. 

“We know the social distancing is important, and having classroom sessions works against that,” said SCCC’s Director of Adult Basic Education, Dr. Maria Fe Laguitan. “But our students need to keep learning English and thinking of their futures. We asked, ‘What can we do?’”

The answer? Drive-through school packets, designed to keep ABE students connected to their instructors, their studies, and their dreams. 

Colvin Center instructors worked to create individualized study packets for every student enrolled in the courses offered at the adult learning center. Then they created a pop-up educational station in the parking lot, where students could drive up, say hello from a distance, and receive materials. 

“It was wonderful,” said ESL instructor Vicky Bangs. “They were excited because we were out class on spring break and then it was delayed another week. They wished to have a class, and we wished to have a class. When we explained why there were no more classes, they understood, but they were totally happy we could still work together.”   

Fellow instructor Amy Thompson, who had helped prepare packets in advance, was unable to attend the pop-up handout. Upon her return, she was pleased to see almost all the students had picked up their packets. 

“Each of us does our instruction a little differently, and some packets were for two weeks and others were for four,” she said. “All of us are supplementing with YouTube videos, where we do teaching, answer questions in the comments … we’re still figuring this out as we go.”

The effects of the pandemic have touched everyone, including Thompson’s students. 

“They may not have a job, they may not have childcare. Our idea was to provide some sort of continuity,” she said. 

Bangs noted that parents who are now sequestered at home with school-age children can embark on collaborative learning with their own sons and daughters. 

“I told them, don’t get stressed about the packet. We just want to help you learn. If your kids are home, ask them to sit down with you and translate or help you. It can be a good experience together,” she said. Another area where children might prove helpful? Digital technology literacy. 

“We are starting to see comments come back to us on the YouTube videos as they learn how to use it,” she said, adding that it encourages her, as a newcomer to YouTube posting, to see evidence that her video instruction is meeting needs. 

Thompson said she, too, is tackling the learning curve for video instruction. 

“It’s fun, but you don’t have that feedback, that engagements that oftentimes guides your teaching,” she said. “On YouTube, you can’t look across the room and see the blank look if they don’t understand, you don’t hear the pronunciation back from them.” 

Despite missing their students, Bangs, Thompson, and Laguitan said technology is a blessing in the midst of the unknown. 

“The students knowing we care about them — that is the most important thing,” Laguitan said. “We are thankful it’s possible.”

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