In-person classes at Canisius High School stopped in March due to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, but classes have continued online. The initial weeks of this eLearning shift have been a demonstration of the community's strength. The last day of in-person classes was March 13, and as the extent of the pandemic became more widely understood that week, administration faculty and staff, in a matter of days, prepared an online learning plan and coursework. It is a plan that takes into account extensive research on best practices in distance learning, and considers the varied home lives of students and faculty alike.
“We looked at ways to streamline our courses. We had to do a very quick needs assessment," says Ms. Andrea Tyrpak-Endres, principal of Canisius High School. "We realized that departments needed time to work together.”
"Many of our students come from families with multiple children who would also likely be learning from home," Ms. Tyrpak-Endres continues. "We had to keep in mind that we didn't want to overwhelm people. This crisis is unprecedented. Productivity is important, but we also recognize that these are not normal conditions for teaching and learning."
Now that Canisius is a few weeks into eLearning, there are many examples of the creativity of the lessons faculty have prepared and students’ responses to them. These include Mr. Alec Hufford incorporating a video of last year's graduation speech by Mr. Canisius Joel Nicholas '19, with embedded questions, to help his religion students learn about the Catholic teaching on Imago Dei.
Mr. Dennis Beecher '88 had students listen to Bob Marley’s song “War”, inspired by Ethiopian leader Haile Selassie, to lead into a discussion on Social Darwinism, Western Imperialism and social justice.
Ms. Cathy Pitek P'00 challenged her art students to create art motivated by their moods during the pandemic. Below is one such piece, created by Anthony Davoli '22, which reflects a positive outlook.
In curriculum for Fahrenheit 451, Mr. Ron Ahrens '91 had students play a stock market game where they each selected a stock to invest in with a goal of making the money grow by the game's closing date. They were asked to reflect on the questions below.
Overall, the Canisius eLearning transition has gone well so far. It has not been without technical glitches which have required patience, adaptability, and flexibility from our faculty, staff, and students. A survey of parents (see below) and students about the eLearning experience is providing helpful feedback that will inform the school's effort to improve the eLearning experience. Reflecting on experiences is a hallmark of Jesuit education.
Beyond class work, students are staying connected in other ways. Canisius team coaches and the strength and conditioning coach are providing workout plans that student-athletes can do at home.
R foot in L foot in then out. Stand on one side of the ladder. pic.twitter.com/JO21k2mo4P— Canisius High School Strength & Conditioning (@CanisiusHS_SC) April 5, 2020
Also, the morning prayer – part of the daily announcements at school during a typical school day – is now recorded by students on video and shared each morning on Twitter.
"Help us to walk with Jesus during this Holy Week and to be thankful for the opportunity to continue being in our learning community in this new way."— Canisius High School (@CanisiusHS) April 6, 2020
Dondrell Vance '20 leads us in today's prayer.#stpetercanisiusprayforus pic.twitter.com/Pcdv6pw00G
Much about this pandemic and how it will evolve is unknown, but the care and flexibility of the Canisius community is a constant.
"We will get through this," says Canisius President Fr. David Ciancimino, S.J. "Let us continue to pray for one another."
For ongoing updates on Canisius’ response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and related resources, please click here.