BROOKINGS – Hope Hanson, a second-grade teacher in her first year at Medary Elementary School, has gone the extra mile for her students – literally.
She recently ran 7 miles through Brookings, making a brief, in-person, social-distance visit to each of her 22 charges.
“A lot of what we create in the classroom is culture. That was lost,” Hanson said, explaining some of the rationale behind her running visits. “Obviously technology is a very useful tool, but we were missing those interactions.”
Using ClassDojo, a communication app designed for teachers, parents and students, she “sent out a message and asked if anyone was interested in me running by their house just to wave, just so we could see each other from over 6 feet apart.”
The Watertown native is no stranger to running. Her senior year at South Dakota State University she was a walk-on and ran cross-country. Following graduation, she went on to coach both boys’ and girls’ cross country at Arlington High School. She then taught in Sioux Falls before moving here with her husband, Blaze Hanson, and taking her job at Medary.
Hanson mapped out a route so she could find the quickest way to include everybody. And she was assisted by her husband, who accompanied her on his bike, serving as navigator and helping her locate her students’ homes. Keeping the appropriate social distance, Hanson did stop and visit with her students along the route.
“I stopped and stood in the street as I would wave at them,” she said. “Most of them were either in their driveway or in a window and they waved. I did have some of them write messages and I had one who held a picture up.”
Hanson also noted that she had made each of her students a name-bracelet and “as I ran by I tossed them a bracelet, just to let them know that I was thinking about them.”
“It was typical of races where you would cheer on somebody. It was really inspiring; it was fun. I miss them, so it was good for me to see that they’re safe and healthy and happy.
A need to talk, catch up
Hanson had been in touch with her students weekly, ensuring that their next-week assignments were posted each Friday. And at 2:30 p.m. the same day, she had Zoom conferences with them “primarily for that social aspect that the kids needed: to see their friends, to be able to talk to their friends, to catch up. We had a virtual dance party, … a virtual show-and-tell, … a virtual scavenger hunt.
“I tried to keep them themed, so that they would be inclined to jump on to that call if they wanted to get on.”
She ended the school year with a sort of grand finale: “a final awards ceremony to keep them engaged and excited about the end of the year.
“That’s quite a celebration that they have completed remote learning. That’s quite an achievement.”
Contact John Kubal at [email protected]