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Retired educator helping students

Retired Charlotte County Public School teacher Sandy Flynn said when the COVID-19 pandemic struck and schools closed, she felt the need to do something.

“When I found out the kids weren’t going to school, I was distressed,” Flynn said, “I already saw repercussions of the shutdown which caused schools to close the last two and a half months this spring. 

After spending some time brainstorming ideas about ways she could help, Flynn said she felt the need to help students, and her teacher instincts took over.

Currently, Flynn spends her Wednesdays teaching a group of 18 students and helping them with their virtual learning schoolwork.

“I felt led to support them with their schoolwork during the day and called it our Kingdom Kids School House, much like the one-room schoolhouse idea,” Flynn said, “I’m doing this for the kids. What better way can I serve God?”

The Kingdom Kids School House is held each Wednesday at Ash Camp Baptist Church in Keysville, where the group has ample space to follow CDC guidelines.

“I have taught for a long time, witnessed many changes, and seen many different trends come and go, but the joy I see on Wednesday mornings among these children and pre-teens is incomparable to any of those experiences,” Flynn said, “Their enthusiasm is evident while working on their school work, in their conversations with their peers, and in our Kingdom Kids activities.  The atmosphere in our group is one of love, kindness, compassion, and gratefulness at simply being together in this encouraging and instructional environment.”

Flynn said that teaching this way is something that is not only new to her but to her students as well. She is happy that students are getting some type of education.

“I feel that virtual learning is better than the kids having no instruction, and as an advocate of technology in education, I am grateful they have this resource to help bridge the gap of in-person learning,” Flynn said, “However, there are numerous problems, also.”

Flynn said she is now seeing parents, grandparents, caregivers, and others involved with the huge responsibility for their children’s education are expected to not only become educators but also to navigate the everchanging world of technology. Many of them are managing full-time jobs and coming home to overloaded broadband and Wi-Fi networks further slowing down the process.

Flynn is also seeing how her students are suffering as well.

“They are struggling, and some are adapting, and I believe their education is being impaired,” Flynn said. “Is it ideal? No, definitely not.  I see both sides of the situation and believe me the teachers are working harder than ever.”

According to Flynn, she is seeing her older students adapt to technology better than her younger ones.

“The older students can better manage the technical aspects and can read the written material on their own, whereas the younger students need an adult with them reading the new material being taught when there isn’t audio available.

“Many of the videos suggest watching them multiple times to help with understanding, but unless one has sat with a child using a less than a desirable internet connection, they just don’t understand what they are asking,” she said.

Shannon Clark said her children look forward to the weekly faith-based learning, community outreach, and activities.

“Mrs. Flynn, the many volunteers, and Ash Camp Baptist Church are wonderful, and we appreciate all that they do for both my kids and the greater community,” Clark said.

For parent Deborah Vereen Kingdom Kids has been a blessing helping her children with their schoolwork and providing them with outside activities.

“Not only do they get help with schoolwork, but they also meet some friends and worship,” Vereen said.

Socialization is something else that Flynn said she worries about with children not being in school and that the novelty of getting work done a little quicker, sleeping a little later, the leisure to take a break or eat whenever they want is wearing off.

“The kids tell me they just want to go back to school,” Flynn said. “They miss their friends, the routine, and the teachers. I believe the best job in the world is teaching, and it is because of the relationships with my students.  Watching them grasp concepts, and especially learning to read are like tiny little miracles every single day. Virtual learning doesn’t provide this unique relationship for the students or the teacher.

“In an era of screen-addicted generations, children’s and teens’ last need is more isolation, which already hinders social skills, more screen time, and less interaction with nurturing teachers as role models. I’m afraid we are severely damaging, if not destroying, a generation by not having them in school.

“COVID-19 is scary, but is it as scary as what we are doing to our students?  I believe not.”