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Palm Beach County teacher prepares for digital teaching, learning

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Posted at 10:50 AM, Mar 27, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-29 21:52:29-04

PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Right now, teachers across Palm Beach County and the Treasure Coast are gearing up to begin digital lessons next week.

In Palm Beach County, virtual learning is set to start on Tuesday, March 31.

It’s a new world that brings both challenges and opportunities.

Kristen Stern, a third grade reading teacher at Sandpiper Shores Elementary School, never imagined she’d be teaching this way, but her keyword right now is to adapt to the situation.

Stern was a student at the west Boca Raton school and has been teaching there for nine years. But this is certainly not a textbook situation.

"I say it’s kind of like the stages of grief," Stern said. "I was in denial and now I’m accepting it and we’re ready to move forward."

Stern said she was heartbroken to learn how long they’d be out of the classroom. Students are not set to go back to class until April 15 at the earliest across the state of Florida.

"I don’t have children of my own yet, so I say that my kids are my babies," Stern said.

Stern told WPTV's Stephanie Susskind that learning how to teach from a distance starts with understanding the circumstances all of her students will be coming from.

"Reaching out to my parents. What do you need from me personally, and how are you doing, and what is your situation at home so I can realistically plan for virtual school," Stern said. "Are they with grandparents? Are they going to work with them? So finding out their new dynamic first and then adapting my new classroom to that."

Stern even created what she calls an "uber library," filling the trunk of her car with books to deliver to students who need them. She said she has dropped them off at doorsteps or met parents in parking lots, just to make sure all students can have a book in their hands.

Stern said her students were really on a roll preparing for FSA testing, when life changed drastically earlier this month.

"They were doing so well and there was actually a day when I looked up at them and stopped teaching and said, wow guys, I cannot believe where we are right now, and we were on that roll and I just felt like that rug was pulled from under us," Stern said. "But that’s OK. We’re gonna put it back under us and roll virtually."

Stern added that she feels ready to tackle next week’s lessons, almost like the start of a new school year.

"It’s like the beginning of school again. We get to recharge and have that beginning of school feeling where you’re excited and doing new things. So yeah, I feel like it’s August again," said Stern.

With a limited amount of time, Stern grabbed what materials she could from her classroom and created a mobile classroom in her home. If nothing else, she wants families to know we are all in this together.

"Do not feel pressure, just do the best you can and that’s all you can do," Stern said. "If you can’t get to everything in virtual school one day, that’s OK. Our lives have changed right now and we’re gonna get back on track and when we see these babies again we’re gonna pick right back up like this never happened."

Stern said she looks forward to the day she is back in the classroom with her kids, face to face.

"I cannot wait and I hope that I’m able to hug them, and if I’m not, seeing them is plenty," Stern said.

For more information about digital learning for Palm Beach County students, click here.