It was just before our March Break when the pandemic started to seem like it might just affect our lives significantly. First, all professional sports organizations announced they would stop playing games. It seemed unthinkable. That was a Wednesday. Thursday, our high school students were at an all-day event hosted by the Chatham Christian School. On the way back, the students started to get text and email notifications that all robotics events that MCA participates in had been cancelled. That seemed just plain cruel to them – they had worked hard and were ready to compete. By supper time, the Ontario government had announced schools would be shut down for the two weeks following March Break. That was dismaying.
But it gave our teachers one working day.
They had a professional development day scheduled for the Friday. Can you believe it? They had no idea how much they would need that day, but the Lord did and He provided what they needed.
Under the leadership of our principal and vice principals, the team rolled up their sleeves. By the end of the day they had a plan. Many – maybe all – the teachers worked through March Break to prepare for the resumption of school immediately afterward. Online school.
How did it go? Take a look through some of our videos and photos, and check our social media feeds. You’ll find the highlights.
But t wasn’t perfect. Far from it.
It was a steep learning curve for not only the teachers but the students and the parents as everyone navigated new technology and a new way of doing things. We learned how to use the full array of Office 365 products, especially Teams where the classes could meet virtually. There were virtual Town Hall meetings with the MCA community, surveys and a Re-Opening committee was formed. Everyone learned how much school work was too little or too much.
The teachers tried to keep it fun while still providing as full a curriculum as possible. For high school, that meant carrying on with the courses – just online. For elementary, the focus was on math, science and language arts while also urging the students to remain active (and provide video evidence!). Teachers assessed the work and included the marks on the year-end report cards. There was some French, geography and other special projects.
We had Fun Fridays. A Guess-That-MCA-Landmark game (winners got a Little Caesars hot lunch – at supper time). Socially-distanced Grade 8 and Grade 12 graduations. A Drive-by Goodbye. A virtual Athletic “Banquet.”
At the beginning of the pandemic, some in our community made face masks and scrub caps for front line workers. Some in our community are front line workers. Later on, our students wrote words of encouragement to the patients at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare. Rachael Iacoban, our Grade 7 teacher, reported the patients and staff were “taken aback” upon receiving the letters:
· Oh, this is so sweet
· How wonderful that these kids think of us
· This just made my day
· Wow, the talent in writing is amazing
“Some of these patients cried happy tears because of your words to them,” Mrs. Iacoban told her students. “And some even wanted to keep copies on their walls! I am so proud of the way you worked to be God’s hands and feet for these patients.”
Other teachers said, all in all, the online learning produced many blessings.
“I was so grateful that I had maintained communication with all of my 19 students and their families, right to the end of the term,” said Adina Haas, the Grade 3 teacher. “What a show of back and forth close contact, from me to the families and from the families back to me, and to each other, in “Zooms” (Teams) and comments in SeeSaw (an app for children), birthday greetings, etc. We are truly part of a LIVE community at Maranatha.”
One of the children in Mrs. Haas’s class liked the online meetings so much he asked if they could continue on Saturdays after school was done!
Dianne VanRooyen is a long-time teacher at MCA whose children have also graduated from the school. She said she is so impressed with how her colleagues handled the situation.
“From what I have seen you have made the learning fun, and engaging. Mostly I appreciated how you have succeeded in maintaining a real sense of community. I feel the love coming off the screen!” she said. “I want to thank all of you for the work you did and the beautiful reflection you are of God’s love for us. I am proud to say I work at Maranatha with such a great staff!”
That brings us to the fall of 2020 and the pandemic is not over. But God is not finished with MCA either. While the administration team, the Re-opening Committee, Maranatha’s board of directors and teachers make their plans, we have the confidence to know that God has already gone before us. That said, we welcome prayer for wisdom and discernment. We are also asking the Lord to provide the needed finances and the teaching staff who can meet all the needs that may present themselves. We pray too for the board that the Lord would guide them in all decisions and for our staff and students that they would feel a sense of peace about what lies ahead and that they would get some well-needed rest in the lead up to the fall.
“What a year to remember! I could never have imagined the scenario we faced this year, but it is times like this that brings the best out of each of us. Our faculty and staff not only finished the year with outstanding online teaching, but went above and beyond in keeping the students connected and excited to see each other on their team chats. Our drive-up graduations were unique and fun and gave our graduating students a send off they will never forget. The key was everyone working together to turn an unusual situation into a memory that will definitely last a life time. A big thanks to all, as we praise the Lord for his faithfulness.”