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Teachers work to end on high note as Hall wraps up instruction
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Paula Smathers, kindergarten teacher at Spout Springs School of Enrichment, has packed the last couple of weeks of school with Zoom activities. Screen grab from Instagram courtesy Paula Smathers

Online learning hasn’t stopped Hall County teachers from finding ways to end the last days of school on a high note. 

While the last day of school is officially May 21, instruction in some ways wrapped up May 7. Materials from school will be turned in beginning next week, and teachers are not assigning new work.

In the last week, Teresa Haymore, language arts teacher at The Da Vinci Academy at South Hall Middle, decided to lead her seventh graders on a cultural journey. 

She asked each to immerse themselves in their heritage and write a poem about where they come from. During the past week, students shared videos that incorporated elements of their poems like music and photos of family members and traditions.

“I knew I needed something engaging because they were starting to burn out,” Haymore said. I wanted something the whole family could get involved with.”

Each of the student’s projects were based on the poem, “Where I’m From,” written by George Ella Lyon, an American author.

Haymore said her students not only uncovered pieces of their own heritage but learned more about their peers. Some of the seventh graders had family ties to Ireland, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Scotland and Vietnam.

Benvon Roberts, a student in Haymore’s class, said she enjoyed sharing about her mother, who is from Ireland.

“The reason I loved creating this project is all the time I got to spend with my mom, looking through the memories captured in photographs,” she said. “It made me realize how amazing my life really is, and how lucky I am.”

Haymore’s seventh graders’ last week of instruction came to a meaningful and uplifting close, and she couldn't be happier. Despite the difficulties of transitioning into online learning, she said the entire Hall County school system has made her proud.

“What we’ve pulled off together is truly miraculous,” Haymore said. “In my 28 years there’s been ups and downs. This could've been really bad, and it turned out to be really good because of Hall County’s commitment.”

Alyson Chaffin, kindergarten teacher at Lanier Elementary School, said now that instruction has ended for her school, the fun has just begun. On each Tuesday and Thursday until their last day on May 21, Chaffin plans to engage her students with enrichment activities.

Her kindergarteners will take a virtual field trip to the Atlanta Zoo by viewing its exotic animals through a video clip. 

“We’ll specifically visit the lion’s habitat, and then they’ll learn how to draw a lion,” Chaffin said. 

The students will also attend a “teddy bear picnic” over Zoom. 

The children will sing, listen to a book and be asked to introduce their favorite teddy bear to their peers.

The official last day on Thursday, May 21, will end with an online award ceremony for all of Lanier Elementary’s kindergarteners. Each teacher has made a slideshow and recorded themselves reading out the names of each student. The children’s photos will appear as they’re announced. 

Chaffin said she always feels sad to leave her students at the end of the year, and this year won’t be any different. 

She plans to see her kindergarteners in person one last time on Monday, May 11, as she hands back their classroom items. 

“I’m hoping to see their faces in 3D form, not just 2D,” Chaffin said. “I always cry at the end of the school year, but I’m really looking forward to seeing them again.”

Paula Smathers, who teaches kindergarten at Spout Springs School of Enrichment, said she has committed herself to filling the last weeks of school with fun activities. So far, she has taken her students on online tours of Disney World, conducted live science experiments, led crafting exercises and offered many other action-packed lessons.

On Thursday, May 21, Smathers intends to celebrate the last day of school by hosting a ceremony for her kindergarteners on Zoom. Her students will be able to see photos from their first day of school and celebrate their last moments together.

They will also receive their individual scrapbooks, which they worked on in class throughout the year. The collection includes handwritten and drawn highlights from every month. 

“Kindergarten is such a great year because they grow so much,” Smathers said. “I’ll miss that last day of giving them a hug.”

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