Education

The Many Ways To Graduate During A Pandemic

May 29, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has canceled milestones for countless people. Weddings have been pushed back, memorials modified for social distancing and some funerals made digital.

High school graduation is a milestone that may feel a little different for students after e-learning for their final months. In early May, the Illinois State Board of Education made a statement saying schools were not to have typical in-person ceremonies. The board also gave guidelines on how schools can still celebrate.

Marilyn Moltz

Editor’s Note: WNIJ and our podcast Teachers’ Lounge are giving a platform for you to hear some of valedictorian speeches students may not get to give in person this year. It’s called “Dear Class of 2020...” If you want your school to be a part of our special edition show, send us an email at teacherslounge@niu.edu. And thanks!

On this episode of Statewide, a task force has been created to figure out the best way to get students back to college this fall.  We talk with a higher education leader about what's at stake and the challenges ahead.

And, high school seniors missed out on traditional graduation ceremonies.  For valedictorians, that meant not being able to stand in front of their classmates and deliver an address.  But they still have things to say and we'll listen to a few of them.  

Those stories and more on this week's Statewide.

Editor’s Note: WNIJ and our podcast Teachers’ Lounge are giving a platform for you to hear some of those valedictorian speeches. If you want your school to be a part of our special edition show, send us an email at teacherslounge@niu.edu. And thanks!

Justin Saichek

On a new Teachers’ Lounge, seventh grade language arts teacher Justin Saichek AKA The Last Wordbender. Justin is a rapper and spoken word artist who teaches at West Middle School in Rockford.

Justin talked to host Peter Medlin about how he got his rap name, teaching in the same building he went to middle school, coronavirus learning challenges, freestyle rap battles, and they dove deep on Justin’s hip hop career and music influences.

Spencer Tritt

Last October, the State Board of Education showed nearly 2,000 unfilled teaching jobs and nearly 5,000 total education positions. 

 

Bob Sondgeroth is the regional superintendent for Lee, Ogle and Whiteside counties. He says it’s likely the pandemic will worsen Illinois’ teacher shortage. 

 

“I honestly think that we're going to have some retirements that we didn't plan on,” he said. “They're going to decide it's not worth the risk.” 

 

Spencer Tritt

Around 60% of DeKalb students qualify as low-income, according to the Illinois Report Card. That means they also qualify for reduced or free meals.

When the COVID-19 pandemic struck, schools scrambled to keep providing food for students who rely on their district for much more than education.

Peter Medlin

Running is more than exercise, it’s therapy. That’s what Jonah Garcia says. So he’s training now harder than ever. Garcia’s a senior distance runner on Auburn High School’s track & field team in Rockford.

Like so many spring athletes, Jonah had his final high school season stolen by the COVID-19 pandemic. He says he was feeling good about the season and had personal records he figured he could easily break.

“I was hoping to go Division-1 and maybe try and get a scholarship based off of my times this year,” he said.

Spencer Tritt

Coronavirus has highlighted the digital divide among low-income as well as rural students. Schools that don’t send students home with laptops rushed them equipment so they could do their homework online.

School administrators say some parents claim to have internet access, but it may only be through a phone plan. Districts have distributed hot spots for families without a plan or where service is undependable.

Peter Medlin

Illinois students have been e-learning for more than a month now. Reliable internet connectivity is still one of the major hurdles for many rural districts.

Alex Moore is the superintendent at Montmorency. They’re a K-8 district in Whiteside County with around 230 students.

“On a good day, I get four megabytes per second download speed, so I knew that was going to be an issue,” he said. “About half of our families probably have decent internet.”

Even that “good day” download speed doesn’t meet the FCC’s minimum recommendation for e-learning.

On this week's Statewide, a Decatur newspaper tells the view from within a senior living facility that has seen dozens of COVID-19 cases and several deaths.  

College journalists have left campuses, but they are still providing the student's perspective and publishing online.  Also, not everyone who gets sick with COVID-19 winds up in the hospital.  Many are getting help from health care workers while they recover at home. 

Those stories and more on the latest episode of Statewide. 

Jim Kanas

On a new episode of Teachers’ Lounge, roots musician, jazz guitarist & music teacher: Jim Kanas. He’s retiring from DeKalb Public Schools this year and has been an artist-in-residence with the Illinois Arts Council at schools across the state.

Jim talked to host Peter Medlin about e-learning, being an artist outside of the big city, his passion for American music and, obviously, we didn’t have him on without making him play a little something.

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Illinois Valley Community College recently had servers shut down by a cyberattack.

 

The school hired cybersecurity firms to get to the root of the ransomware and make sure confidential records are safe. 

 

The servers have been down since April 24. The school hopes to have more answers soon on how and why hackers got into their system. 

 

The attack primarily affected the college’s email servers, website and administrative software.

 

Spencer Tritt

Schools across Illinois have shifted to eLearning. But making that dramatic change can be very complicated, especially with schools that serve under-resourced minority populations disproportionately affected by the virus.

Students at Youth Connection Charter Schools in Chicago are often from those groups. Some are homeless or young parents, and many work in essential positions that put their health at risk during the COVID-19 crisis.

Spencer Tritt

It’s unclear what COVID-19’s full impact will be on colleges in the fall. Some are re-tooling schedules in case they need to move online.

And many students are changing their college plans because of the pandemic.

Cathy Cebulski is a counselor at DeKalb High School. She’s been communicating with her students over email since they moved to e-learning.

“If students were planning on going away to college thinking that Mom and Dad both had a job and they're both laid off right now, that certainly is a concern,” said Cebulski.

On this episode of Statewide, Governor J.B. Pritzker talks candidly about being in charge through a public health emergency and a near economic shutdown.  

We also find out more about restrictions on funerals during the pandemic. 

And an Illinois farmer tells us how agriculture is being affected. 

That and more on Statewide.

Evadne Bowlin

This week, the Teachers’ Lounge is actually a Student Teachers’ Lounge. We have DeKalb Founders Elementary student teacher & Northern Illinois University senior, Evadne Bowlin.

Evadne talked to host Peter Medlin about how coronavirus affects her both as a student-teacher and just as a college student. We also got into her journey to education and how she’s kind of been a student teacher since the 7th grade.

On this week's Statewide, a nurse talks about the the risk of being on the front lines of the coronavirus fight. 

"As a healthcare worker, I think we're resigning ourselves to the fact that we're probably going to get it and we hope it doesn't affect us," said Thomas McClure, who works for Memorial Medical Center in Springfield. 

We also learn about a project to document how Illinois residents are coping during COVID-19. 

And, a group of neighbors found a way to gather for a block party - while still keeping a safe distance from each other.   

Illinois school personnel can now temporarily use a type of previously-banned physical restraint on students if necessary. A few state lawmakers Monday said they’re “disappointed” in that decision to roll back the ban.

Wikimedia Commons

A few years ago, DePaul professor Dr. Christina Rivers started teaching a different kind of law and politics course.

About half of the class is made up of typical DePaul students and the other students are serving time at the Stateville Correctional Center. The class is held inside the maximum security prison.

Her class does a group project where they create a policy proposal. Half of the projects students presented were about voting rights and education in the first year at Stateville.

John Zuber

On this week’s show: John Zuber. He talked with host Peter Medlin about teaching in the time of coronavirus. John is particularly fascinated by how it’s impacted his relationships with his students. He thinks so far doing classes online from his couch while traversing technical difficulties has made them more casual and maybe more personable.

 

Northern Illinois University

Universities across the state have canceled in-person classes for the rest of the semester. But how do you learn acting, music or dance from home?

There’s no replacing the immediacy of live theatre. And there’s no replacing a live concert or recital.

But Alexander Gelman says it’s worth remembering that art’s greatest enemy can be a lack of limitations. He’s the head of Northern Illinois University’s School of Theatre & Dance.

Spencer Tritt

During the dash to prepare students and families to learn from home, the rural Oregon Community School District issued what amounted to a disclaimer. 

 

John Zuber is an Oregon high school English teacher. He says the district had to say e-learning simply won’t be at the same level of education they get in the classroom. It’s just not possible.

 

“Which is a good admission, I think. It's like we can't replicate what we would normally do, but we're trying," he said.

 

TEDxNorthwesternU

On this week’s show: Jay Rehak. He’s an author and Chicago Public Schools language arts teacher. He and his classes at Whitney Young High School are the co-writers of over a dozen student-sourced novels. 

 

This week's program focuses on the changes we're seeing as a result of the coronavirus.  From how schools operate to customers panic buying at grocery stores.   

We're all feeling stressed during this time and we'll hear some ideas on how to cope with anxiety.  

That and more on this week's Statewide.

On this episode of Statewide, the spread of the coronavirus is dominating the headlines and causing numerous cancellations and other changes.  We'll learn about some of those.  Also, does wearing a mask help?  We'll hear from experts.

And an author of a new book on Abraham Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address talks about the importance of that speech and those who were in attendance that day in 1865.  Those stories and more on Statewide.

From Here To Uruguay | Teachers' Lounge Podcast

Mar 6, 2020
Peter Medlin

On this week’s show: James Cohen. He’s an associate professor of ESL & bilingual education at Northern Illinois University. He’s also a former Fulbright Scholar who has lived in several different countries across the world and most recently taught in Uruguay.

 

 

On this episode of Statewide, we hear how one Illinois town has fared since a major employer left.  Galesburg lost more than 1500 jobs in 2004 when a Maytag plant closed.  

We learn about a service broadcasting sports events specifically for the blind.

And the number of people leaving the state has local governments working to find ways to reverse the trend.  That and more on Statewide.

This week's lineup:

Illinois lawmakers are considering whether parents should be allowed to keep their children from participating in active shooter drills at school.

Some parents and school personnel say the exercises have a negative effect on children. State Sen. Scott Bennett, a Democrat from Champaign, said he’s not against active shooter training, but he said it should be conducted with more sensitivity.

On the latest episode of Statewide, a new report examines the past and present of corruption in both Chicago and the State of Illinois.  It also ranks them compared to other governments throughout the country.  Spoiler alert: it's not a pretty picture. 

How are college students viewing this election season and what questions do they have for candidates?

And despite the same pressures faced by the newspaper industry as a whole, some individuals are making an effort to keep student papers keep printing.  

That and more on Statewide.

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