Tags Posts tagged with "Deniz Yildirim"

Deniz Yildirim

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Nicole Haff’s students hang on to the walls of Terryville elementary as part of a project to increase togetherness when everyone remains seperate. Photo by Deniz Yildirim

By Deniz Yildirim

It’s safe to say that many of us are looking forward to the end of 2020, no one more so than teachers. Last school year was disrupted by COVID-19 and this school year had a challenging start for the same reason. Teachers had to think outside of the box to reinvent every part of their day to accommodate safe practices like social distancing; could you imagine story time without gathering your class on a carpet or learning your students names without seeing their faces?  

Despite all of these challenges, Comsewogue schools are making it work, and are creating some much needed cheer for the holidays. For the past six years Terryville Road Elementary School has hosted a door decorating contest and produced some truly genius and show stopping doors. Since classes have been split into two groups, the obvious theme was “We are seperate together.” This year students worked “together” to decorate pieces which they applied to the door. With the help of teachers and aids, classes created delightful and creative doors like Jackie Dunn’s 4th grade class. They decorated both doors and included the space between them to make a mountain landscape with a zipline which students are riding into each others’ room. 

Even virtual students were able to participate. Annemarie Sciove, the Terryville elementary principal, compiled pictures of finished school doors and included pictures from virtual students which was then presented to the school during an in school virtual assembly. 

“It’s very important to remember we are together even if we can’t see each other.” Sciove said. 

In keeping with that mindset, the school donated over $1,000 to families in need during this difficult time. Superintendent Jennifer Quinn makes a point to visit every school during this hectic time and this year her nephew has joined the Terryville family. She said, “Terryville never ceases to amaze me! The doors are a visual representation of  what we are doing with our hearts.”

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Comsewogue High School. Photo by Deniz Yildirim

By Deniz Yildirim 

What is school going to be like? This is just one of the many questions people are asking as September approaches. Despite being erroneously listed as a school district who has not submitted a back to school plan by New York State, the district had actually submitted a plan to the state weeks ago and has been communicating with the community about its plans throughout the summer. 

Comsewogue School District From left: Susan Casali, Jennifer Polychronakos, Michael Mosca, Joseph Coniglione and Jennifer Quinn. Photo from David Luces

As of right now the Comsewogue school district plans to open and is offering families the choice to go back live or virtually. Once parents make a decision, administration will be able to determine how many virtual teachers they need and will then go about appointing teachers to these positions. This year will be unlike any other as the school takes creative steps to put both students’ and teachers’ health and safety first. 

Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Quinn and her team have been working tirelessly to create two plans, one for elementary and another for secondary to best meet the needs of all students. These plans have been explained in detail in videos posted on the district’s website. Elementary students who opt for live instruction will be in school everyday and classes will be split into two groups so that there are no more than 15 students in a classroom. To reduce the students exposure, groups will remain in their classroom all day, and lunch and special areas will be coming to them. Secondary students (those in grades 7-12) will follow an A/B schedule and come to school on alternating days, and their days at home will be spent participating virtually and completing work on their Google classrooms.

Though there are still a lot of questions (How will recess be managed? And How long should students stay home if they show symptoms of COVID?). It’s clear that everyone is working hard to make decisions based on research and health guidelines. 

Deniz Yildirim is a librarian at the Terryville Road Elementary School.

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Kingstone and Miles Fowler practice distance learning. Photo from Kristina Fowler

During challenging times like these, the Comsewogue School District reacted to be fully prepared to not only provide and keep its classes and academic standards at a high level but also to keep the students’ social and emotional well-being stable despite no longer being in the school buildings.

The administration, staff, students and community saw fit to have educational packets and more in place while the upper grades were provided with Chromebooks and resources online available before school was closed. The technology department was in close contact and continues to be communicating with everyone on a daily basis with updates and more.

“I was happy to receive additional training available up to the very last day,” said Camie Zale, a special education teacher.

“Teachers and students are comfortable with using technology and communicating with various websites and apps on a normal basis,” said Andrew Harris, a teacher at the middle and high school. “Unfortunately, I’m nowhere as savvy as most of these students who have grown up with this technology. If I ever have any problem, I can ask any of my students who usually solve it in a matter of seconds … they are amazing.”

Don Heberer, district administrator for instructional technology, said the 1:1 take-home Chromebook program in the high school and classroom carts at John F. Kennedy Middle School had allowed students and teachers to become comfortable with using the technology for education.

Melissa McMullan, a sixth-grade teacher in the middle school, said the school did a great job getting Chromebooks into kids’ hands. The process, she said, has been tricky to find what works and what doesn’t on an online space.

“The kids and I will solve the need for distance learning together like we always do,” she said.

Students in the elementary schools have grade-level packets posted online along with hard copies sent home. The district is also providing support to both teachers and parents remotely on using the technology.

”Comsewogue has always prided itself on being innovative and willing to try something new,” Heberer said. “We know that it will be a challenging change for everyone; however, Comsewogue staff has worked hard to provide the students, teachers and community resources during this period.”

The Comsewogue district has taken to online as well for interteacher-related processes. Harris said teachers received a message from the Pupil Personnel Services department that they will hold upcoming annual meetings on Google Hangouts as part of their annual review process. It has taken time and effort but he feels he has become comfortable and “up to speed” with the various programs.

“For me, I am learning as I go,” Harris said. “The first day I mostly communicated the way I was most familiar with — I picked up the phone and called most parents to let them know what was going on with their child’s education. From there I switched to text messages, and finally have been using Google Classroom and more as I get better.”

After checking in with several of the students, Harris said many teachers realized they were perhaps giving too much work. One parent communicated that her daughter was working from early morning until about 5 p.m. on her assignments and starting to stress out.

“I think many of the teachers didn’t want the students to feel like they were on vacation and get complacent,” said Joe Caltagirone, a teacher at the high school.

Harris said he wanted his very first assignment to be something light and be beneficial to his students and their families. He posted a YouTube video on how to do Box Breathing, a technique of taking slow, deep breaths to relieve some stress and help concentrate.

“I know people are highly stressed so I asked that the student watch this video first,” Harris said. “I also requested that they teach members of their family how to do it. I know from experience when you teach others you become very proficient at what you’re teaching. I asked them all to comment on how it made them feel.”

Harris, also a yoga instructor, said that breath work is easy to learn and perhaps the best thing people can do in these stressful situations.

Having said all of this, there are many in the Comsewogue community that may not be as comfortable as students are with technology, though there are many people willing to help distribute food and other resources to our senior citizens.

“The problem is that they may not know that there is help out there. Where many of us can easily access social media sites, many of these seniors don’t have the ability to do so,” said Ed Garboski of the Port Jefferson Station/Terryville Civic Association.

“Currently, I’m trying to find a way to bridge that gap,” said Harris. “We are trying to put together an electronic way to have our students write letters to the senior citizens who are being quarantined at local facilities. If we have to, we will have the letters printed and distributed to those seniors directly or through the facility’s printer, so they are not compromised.”

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn stated that the whole staff is committed to doing whatever is necessary to make sure the students continue to get everything they need to have a great education, and much more.

Information and quotes provided by Andrew Harris

Comsewogue Won’t Be Stopped by COVID-19

By Deniz Yildirim

Like the rest of New York, Comsewogue School District is facing unprecedented challenges with courage and teamwork. Following Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s (D) orders, all six of the district’s schools were closed on Monday, March 16, for a tentative two-week period. Administrators and teachers worked hard to create packets and uploaded countless resources onto the district’s website so students can continue their education at home.

Preparing work for over 5,000 students with numerous and distinct needs such as learning disabilities and language barriers could only be completed with hard work and collaboration. Reading teachers, English as second language teachers, teaching assistants and even special area teachers like music teacher Ellen Rios came together to create comprehensive packets that were sent home with students on Friday, March 13. Parents could come in person to pick them up if their child wasn’t in school to get it themselves.

Superintendent Jennifer Quinn has been regularly calling parents with updates and also informed families that the district is even willing to lend out its Chromebooks to students who couldn’t otherwise access the online learning tools.

“This is a scary time for everyone and our students’ health comes first. We want to share what we have to make them feel safe and help them continue to learn,” said Quinn. “Families are advised to call the district so they can prepare the appropriate materials and ensure a smooth and sanitary pick up.

In addition to student work, Comsewogue is continuously posting statements on its website (in English and Spanish) in order to keep families informed. One such notice comes from Robert Pearl, the district’s new administrator for Pupil Personnel Services and Micheala Finlay-Essig, the assistant director of PPS; they have been rescheduling important meetings regarding student services that will now be “teleconferencing” meetings through Google Meet. The instructional technology department led by Don Heberer has never been more critical and everyone can testify to the key role they are playing.

“We’re here to help our students, teachers and community,” Heberer said. “We have been supporting our teachers through technology professional development, so the teachers can support our students’ learning. We are updating the district website and mobile app daily to keep our community informed and provide vital resources.”

Comsewogue graduate, parent and now teacher Kristina Fowler said she’s never been prouder of her community. Fowler has a unique perspective because she’s been in everyone’s shoes, so it’s particularly meaningful to hear her say that Comsewogue is going above and beyond her expectations. She supports her two sons, fourth-grader Kingston and second-grader Miles and lets them “play” with their friends via FaceTime. Most recently, Kingston and Kristina helped classmate Liam Schneph with a question he had about his new hamster.

“It’s so important to stay connected and let kids be kids,” she said. “Comsewogue won’t be stopped by COVID-19.”

Deniz Yildirim is a librarian at the Terryville Road Elementary School