Windham Primary School kindergarten teacher Olivia Latham in her “classroom” at home.

WINDHAM — Kindergarten teacher Olivia Latham isn’t letting the fact that the coronavirus pandemic has closed all schools in the state until at least May 1 interrupt her or her students’ morning routine. Every day, she gets up and goes to her “classroom” that she set up in her home, and records the morning meeting as a video that she sends to her students to watch. She then goes outside and records herself giving a weather report and might suggest the proper attire for that day’s forecast, like throwing on a raincoat.

With the sudden move to a teach- and learn-from-home model, administrators in the Windham-Raymond school district decided to use the first two weeks as a transitional period and help teachers, students and parents to not only adjust to using new technology, but also to this new reality.

The district officially began distance learning on Monday.

“We just couldn’t be prouder of what (teachers) have done and what they’ve continued to do,” said RSU 14 Director of Curriculum Christine Hesler.

The teachers interviewed said that distance learning is so far so good. It’s a challenge, but the two weeks of transition time meant that the first days of instruction went well, with most students attending Zoom meetings or checking in with their teachers through online tools like Google Classroom.

Olivia Latham reads a bedtime story to her students every night. Photo courtesy of Olivia Latham

Eileen Pelletier, a second grade teacher at Raymond Elementary School, said that when she learned schools were closing, she was excited about the opportunity to incorporate more technology into her lessons.


“On the flipside,” Pelletier said, “(this) might be difficult and cause stress on families.”

“It’s a double-edged sword,” she said.

Heather Freeman, who teaches sixth grade language arts and social studies at Windham Middle School, said her biggest concern right now is making sure that the students are getting the support they need.

“In class, you can watch body language and answer their questions,” she said. “When they’re at home, behind a computer, it’s hard to read their face and adjust instruction.”

Latham said one of the toughest parts about distance learning is that there is no time for an in-person transition.

“I really never got to say goodbye to (my kids) and tell them everything’s going to be OK,” she said.


Jennifer Potter, a sixth grade English language arts and social studies teacher at Jordan Small Middle School in Raymond, agrees.

“The transition was very sudden and even more so for our students. We did not get to say goodbye and reassure them before the quarantine school closure. I just want students and families to know that I am here to help, always,” she said.

RSU 14 teachers interviewed said they were grateful for the two weeks they had before official instruction began. They used that time to help students and their parents get used to the technology and connect with them in other capacities while everyone transitioned.

“We really have to think about what kids need to know and be able to do, and this is good for our practice,” said Jen Shapiro, an English teacher at Windham High School. “It has been fun to see some students via video chats; I’ve met some pets and had some silly interactions that have made social distancing more bearable.”

Latham, the kindergarten teacher, not only starts her day with a message and weather report, she ends the day with a bedtime story for students kids from her own bed. One of her favorite books is called “The Invisible String.”

“(The book) talks about how we all have a string so if we miss somebody, you can pull on that invisible string and they can feel it,” she said. “I read that book to them to let them know that I miss them and that although we can’t be with each other, you can still pull on your invisible string.”

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