Though schools have been closed nearly two months in Amherst County because of the coronavirus, Amelon Elementary School kindergarten teacher Melita Ring has managed to keep regular face time with her students.

The 19-year veteran at Amelon Elementary said after schools were ordered closed March 13 she immediately began reaching out to students online through social media. She regularly has used Zoom, Facebook and Google Meet to read to her students and kept them versed in several subjects.

Her goal was to connect the students to a person they recognize for a sense of normalcy in a very uncertain time and make them feel at ease with learning while away from the classroom. She has read books and included math and other subjects when possible using household items such as playing cards.

“Just so they can have things that were already at home and do some learning there,” Ring said.

She’s also talked with students about losing teeth and included that in the online discussions.

“I’ve opened my home and I’m so happy I get to connect with most of my children on a weekly basis,” she said on the online interactions.

She sets aside times three days a week to read stories to the students, along with other daily interactions. Ring said it’s important to read to them because it helps them grasp the subject through voice and expressions.

Her goal is to make the stories come alive for the children and bridge the gap of missing the classroom setting. “Reading to the children is an opportunity,” Ring said following a reading on May 8. “We talked about a spinning wheel today.”

She loves giving of her personal time with many of the lessons.

“That’s my favorite part of my day at school,” said Ring. “I love reading to them and making stories come alive. That’s what teaches them to have their inner voice when they’re reading. It’s just my joy to do that.”

She said the interactions helps her balance out her own work with her children, a fifth-grader and eighth-grader, while they too are home bound.

The online lessons are well-received among students and parents are helpful in making sure they join in for the half-hour reading sessions.

“They interact well, they seem to stay focused and engaged,” Ring said. “I feel like it’s gone very well. They can see me and see learning is part of their life. Learning doesn’t stop.”

Ring said she will continue the online interactions through the end of May. She has spent the majority of her time at Amelon, 17 years, teaching kindergarten and spent two years prior teaching first grade there.

Principal Jay Sales describes Ring as the epitome of professionalism who personifies the “just like family” theme Amelon has cultivated.

“As one of our team leaders, I’m not at all surprised by the instructional leadership she has demonstrated during these tumultuous times created by the coronavirus,” Sales said. “Perhaps the only silver lining of this virus is that it has fostered innovative teaching techniques as related to distance learning. Mrs. Ring is a beacon for her fellow colleagues in the greater Amherst County community. Her colleagues marvel at her performance — and the parent feedback has been nothing short of grateful. We are certainly appreciative of her service.”

Ring said the void of not seeing her students stings and she had to pull herself up by her bootstraps and get creative in helping them succeed.

“It definitely leaves an ache in your heart because seeing them daily and engaging with them is where the learning takes place,” Ring said. “It’s definitely hard and hurts not seeing them. Being a positive light to them in these times of uncertainty, that’s been my goal.”

Reach Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

Reach Justin Faulconer at (434) 385-5551.

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