Sometimes all it takes is a phone call and a constructive conversation to move forward during challenging times. Elizabeth Miller, coordinator at the Judy Center Early Learning Hub at Sudlersville Elementary School (Judy Center at SES), learned how true those words would be when she called to speak to Judith Walker, Early Learning Branch chief at the Early Learning Childhood Division at the Maryland State Department of Education.
The idea proposed would include a coordinated creative outreach effort led by the Judy Center at SES, in collaboration with the Early Learning Team at SES. The proposed plan would use a team approach to assist in delivering distance learning packets, materials of instruction such as: math manipulatives, blocks, books, art supplies to children enrolled in SES Pre-K 3, Pre-K 4, Kindergarten and children enrolled in the Judy Center at SES. As part of the plan, similar items would be delivered to Judy Center enrolled children and younger siblings of SES students.
As a result of the conversation with Walker and her support and encouragement in August 2020, and under the leadership of Dr. Andrea Kane, superintendent of Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, Miller, worked with Thomas Walls, principal at SES, Michelle McNeil, supervisor of Early Childhood, Title I, Title III and Migrant Education for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, Margaret Kalmanowicz, supervisor of transportation for Queen Anne’s County Public Schools, to implement the plan of creative outreach for families of young children during the 2020-2021 school year. Julie Hickey, with Sodexo Food Service, joined the team effort with the proposal to provide bags of breakfasts, lunches, milk and juice to be distributed to children 2 to 18 years old during the creative outreach.
The group effort would eventually include a team of multiple QACPS bus drivers, Sodexo Food Service staff, Hickey, Ginny Moran and Brenda Stant, and an Early Learning Team composed of Judy Center staff, Miller, Angie Walls and Kaitlin Falls, SES Principal Thomas Walls, SES Kindergarten teachers and assistants, Christina Landgraf, Tracey Beres, Tony Davidson, Melissa Bennett, SES Pre-K teachers and assistants, Laura Dean, Danielle Vacek, Sara Darling and Lois Dixon, and the Pre-K 3 Expansion teacher and assistants, Sarah Darby, Joseph Bassi and Karen Ruiz Velazquez.
The “Creative Outreach” plan was successful due to the coordinated team effort to assemble and distribute to young children all that they would need to participate in instruction in the home. During the creative outreach, Judy Center staff were able to safely meet with families outside, using social distance and wearing masks. Children received one-on-one instruction, and caregivers received guidance in how to support their young children. Moreover, if caregivers were experiencing other challenges those needs were addressed.
A final outcome of the creative outreach effort and collaboration between the Judy Center and the Pre-K 3 team at SES was a weekly Google Meet developed by Sarah Darby, SES Pre-K 3 teacher, where Pre-K 3 and Judy Center enrolled children participated in a weekly read aloud and a craft focusing on a letter of the alphabet. The Google Meet group has grown over time and the children and families have relayed how much their children look forward to the virtual Google Meet and deliveries.