Woodland Public Schools’ special needs preschool students thrived in a remote-learning environment thanks to the efforts of teachers and families

After a rough start in the spring of 2020, teacher Patty Morgan refined the system over the 2020-2021 school year by adding live classes and one-on-one support

Preschool students in Woodland Public Schools’ special education program celebrated a full year of successful remote learning and their graduation into kindergarten with a special outside ceremony where students received activity bags, posed for photos with their teachers, and enjoyed refreshments. 

Patty Morgan (center) is shown here with members of her dedicated teaching staff. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Patty Morgan (center) is shown here with members of her dedicated teaching staff. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

For the graduation celebration, students each received an appointment time to arrive to ensure social distancing and other pandemic procedures could be properly followed. Each graduate received a bag filled with activity books, stickers, and snacks, all donated by parents of the students. 

“I just asked parents if they could help donate, and everyone stepped up in a huge way,” said Patricia “Patty” Morgan, a special education teacher at Columbia Elementary School who manages Woodland Public Schools’ preschool program for special needs students. “Throughout the year, the parents were a huge and wonderful support jumping in to see what we do in class from their own homes with our teachers modeling lessons and guiding families through becoming hands-on teaching partners.”

After a rough start in the spring of 2020, Morgan refined the system over the 2020-2021 school year by adding live classes and one-on-one support. 

“My instructional assistants create packets of activities and lessons we deliver to our students every other week which include projects for the classes as well as activities, instructional activities, books, and games to engage our students,” she said. “Our families are dedicated teaching partners, working diligently with their children to ensure student learning and development.”

In the spring of 2020, families received weekly activity packets to work with their students, however, this year saw the return of live classes, albeit remotely. 

“Our preschool typically meets three days a week so that is when we held our classes throughout this school year,” said Morgan. “We created and taught curriculum for collaborative language, sensory activities, science, academic art, and also included materials for parents to closely work with their students on fine motor activities.” 

Additionally, Morgan and her staff recorded every live class so students who are unable to attend in person can watch the classes later. 

Curriculum for the preschool crosses subjects so the activities students worked on with their families directly connected to the lessons taught in class. 

“In science, we made slime and rockets with students receiving instructions on how to do it at home as we demonstrated the activities in class,” said Morgan.

Patty Morgan uses a floor-to-ceiling paper mâché tree which changes with each season along with a huge variety of stuffed animal puppets to help teach lessons. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Patty Morgan uses a floor-to-ceiling paper mâché tree which changes with each season along with a huge variety of stuffed animal puppets to help teach lessons. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

In her classroom, Morgan uses a giant Learning Tree she created from paper mâché and other materials which “grows” from the floor to the ceiling with a wide variety of stuffed animal puppets who “live” in the tree and help students with lessons. Without interaction with other kids, Morgan and her team developed lessons to teach social concepts typically learned through student interaction, “We used our characters to teach conflict resolution concepts since we normally do that in-person,” she explained. “A stuffed mouse tried to take a squirrel’s acorn, so the class had to use problem-solving and social skills to learn about sharing and manners.” 

Since special needs students need in-person assessment before enrollment, testing incoming students throughout the year presented a challenge with in-person meetings made impossible due to COVID. 

“We used Google Meets to try and assess students remotely,” said Morgan. “However, with restrictions loosening, we are now able to perform one-on-one meetings with new students to ensure they get the exact kind of support they need.”

Woodland Public Schools celebrated its preschool graduates with a special outdoor ceremony in the Columbia Elementary School parking lot on Sat., June 5, 2021. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District
Woodland Public Schools celebrated its preschool graduates with a special outdoor ceremony in the Columbia Elementary School parking lot on Sat., June 5, 2021. Photo courtesy of Woodland School District

As a result of the efforts put forth by Morgan and her teaching staff, each of the preschool program’s students made huge progress over the course of the year. “The success of this year’s class is a testament to the amazing job our parents did with their kids,” said Morgan. “It was an amazing year, and I couldn’t have done it without the support of my excellent staff and these amazing parents.”

Learn more about how Woodland Public Schools educates students and serves the community, by visiting our dedicated news webpage at www.woodlandschools.org/news/wsd

Information provided by Woodland School District.

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