It takes immense personal commitment and inner strength to be a source of support to others during this ever-changing pandemic.
Lauren Friesen is a teacher-librarian who has stepped up and adapted while we navigate living with COVID-19. Friesen divides her time between Royal and Ralph Maybank School.
“She is such a calm and collected person and the children love working with her. She does a lot of work around inquiry with technology and supporting the teachers to get their Seesaw and Teams platforms up and running,” shares Andrea Loepp, principal, Ralph Maybank School.
Since last spring, Friesen’s role as a teacher-librarian has largely focused on the increased use of technology. Lorraine Barton, principal at Royal School, was impressed at how Friesen ensured staff were equipped to handle tools like SeeSaw and Teams when in-class learning was suspended.
“She spent hours teaching teachers how to use the platforms effectively. She also helped teachers support parents as they learned the platforms,” Barton explains.
We asked Lauren more about the challenges and success so far this school year. Here is what she had to say:
Pembina Trails: In what ways has this school year been different from other years?
LF: This year has been different from other years with much anxiety and questions about new routines and expectations surrounding [COVID-19] procedures. As we made adaptations to our schools, especially our shared spaces like the library, we have had to develop creative work-arounds for managing supplies and getting books to the students. The library-technicians and I worked together to establish a process for getting books to our students in a safe and manageable way.
Pembina Trails: What keeps you going?
LF: I am someone who loves change, so I thrive on the diversity of my position where each day provides new opportunities for learning. I've grown as a risk taker, especially with regards to infusing technology into the curriculum. My favourite moments are when I am able to support a colleague by solving a tech problem for them or introducing new technology that enriches the classroom experience for our students.
Pembina Trails: Tell us more about how you support other teachers and even your school leaders when it comes to technology.
LF: As a teacher-librarian, I have opportunity to help big ideas become reality. Through working with my administrators and co-planning times with teachers, I am able to connect with their ideas and goals to explore where I can contribute. This looks different in each class and with each teacher. It may be through rich inquiry projects, learning how to use green screen or integrating coding into subject matter. With the transition to online learning in spring, I became the Seesaw and Teams resource at both schools, helping teachers set up their accounts, learning how to use their online platforms and troubleshooting as issues came up. I worked with LIT at the administration office and I also communicated with parents who were having trouble connecting at home.
Pembina Trails: Can you share a little more about some of the creative ideas that have come from adapting to learning during COVID-19?
LF: In an effort to build community during this physically distanced setting, we have looked to technology as a tool. [For example], at Royal we made a video, sharing with families how things look at school this year. At Ralph Maybank we are running morning announcements through Teams once a cycle. Students are broadcasting the regular announcements, followed by a little highlight of someone or an event from the school. I've also had student volunteers make a video teaching their classmates about how to clean the computers or follow new procedures.
The principals at both schools note that Friesen is a strong advocate for inquiry-based learning when it comes to technology. Inquiry is a form of active learning that starts by posing questions, problems, or scenarios, then allowing students the space to find answers. Friesen’s principals appreciate not only her application of inquiry, but the way she goes about it.
“Lauren exemplifies thinking outside the box and she does so in a quiet and humble manner,” says Loepp, who also notes that under Friesen’s watch, RMTV broadcasts are now closing with the saying – and signing – of the new Ralph Maybank motto: Together Brave & Strong.
Friesen acknowledges the challenging experience of teaching and learning during a pandemic. She also encourages others to find the joy in building relationships and taking some risks. “Be kind to yourself and extend grace to others,” she says, as we teach (and learn!) in new ways.
Do you know someone else in Pembina Trails who is doing their best to make a difference? We would love to hear from you! Let us know by sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org