POSTCARD FROM THE PANDEMIC: “I tell them we’re social distancing right now, but you still have to get outside.”

Asia’nae Thurman, lead anchor, works with Ahmaddrick Owens, sports.

Suzi Petroff is a Preston Hollow neighbor who went back to teaching Oct. 18. Then the Oct. 20 tornado hit and damaged her home, destroyed the house she had just flipped across from St. Mark’s, and hit her stepson’s house near North Haven Gardens. Now, she’s teaching 154 kids at Irving ISD’s Lady Bird Johnson Middle School theatre and broadcast classes virtually because of the coronavirus. She’s especially attached to the 11 seventh and eighth graders in her broadcast class. She’s lived in Preston Hollow for 13 years.

What she teaches her broadcast class: The broadcast class puts together a daily three-minute news show about things that are going on around the school. It’s an incredibly sweet class and the show is full of love and healing. When we left for spring break, we tried to prepare the kids for what was going to happen about social distancing and hand-washing. When the craziness broke loose and I went back to teaching remotely, the first thing that I did was reach out to that broadcast group. They’re all bright and leaders.

How she approaches remote teaching: I’m an elective class, so I told students to focus on English, science and social studies. But they’re still producing works of brilliance. They send stuff to our drive. I put together a broadcast and email the link to teachers to distribute. Prior to spring break, we were wrapping up sales of the yearbook and doing Box Tops for Education.

How things have changed: We wanted the broadcast to be as familiar to students as it had been prior to COVID-19. We kept the lunch and the weather, and we include a message of hope. Our student Billy Shipp delivered a message of hope in the broadcast that we produced last week. We use a green screen for our broadcasts. The kids are used to it. Billy’s message of hope featured him sitting in his backyard. The birds were chirping, and it was a beautiful day. He said, “You’ve got to look for the positives in this. For example, this isn’t a green screen. This is my backyard.” It was so good.

Her daily routine: I go to my home office at 9 a.m. I put a lesson into the Google classroom and grade them. I communicate with the kids directly. One way that I take attendance is I might say, “Show me that you’re here by telling me what your favorite food is or tell me your favorite color.” Last week I said, “Show me that you are here by telling me a joke.” I’d grab my laptop, run up the stairs and show the jokes to my husband. We both laughed and it brightened my day.

Her advice: I’ve written or called all 154 students. I tell them we’re social distancing right now, but you still have to get outside. If it’s pretty out, take your laptop or iPad outside and do your schoolwork. Being in touch with my kids has meant the world to me.

Her hopes: I’d like to get permission to use Zoom so that my theater class can rehearse a play we were doing about superheroes. Being able to communicate with the kids, seeing each other’s faces and hearing each other’s voices is important. It reminds us that we’ve all got to be here for each other.

About her students: Foster is our editor and technical wizard; Leslie Carranza and Jayden Cook are the featured anchors. They demonstrated one of the fun ways you can use a green screen and produced a “magic trick.” This was the day we let out for spring break. We had no idea it would be the last time we’d get together for a long time. Leslie is also the lead in the school play that we were producing. Students who were not featured this time but who are integral to our daily broadcasts include: Ondrea Hall, producer; Asia’nae Thurman, lead anchor; Kevyn Pierre-Paul, weather; Ahmaddrick Owens, sports; Zakayiah James, announcements; Raul Moreno, announcements; and JJ Windom, announcements.

Check out the students’ first remote broadcast here.

Foster Stuart is the editor and technical wizard. Billy Shipp delivers messages of hope.