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The teachers of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School in Wyandanch sang their message to students loud and clear: “You can count on me like one two three, I’ll be there.”
And yes, they’ll be there — even through a screen.
Third-grade teacher Alyssa Frohnhoefer came up with an idea to bring together students and teachers who hadn’t seen each other in weeks. She asked her colleagues to film themselves saying hello and sharing some words of comfort with students and their families.
“We didn’t get to say goodbye in person,” said Frohnhoefer. “So we wanted to reach out to let them know we’re still here for them, and let them know we're all in this together.”
Music teacher Amanda Fortgang edited the video together, which is more than 12 minutes long and includes clips of 50 teachers and the school’s principal, Monique Habersham. Fortgang and Frohnhoefer went “back and forth” trying to figure out a song they could ask the staff to lip-sync in the video along with their student shout-outs, and they decided on “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars.
“Hopefully it got a few laughs out of [the students],” Fortgang said. She’s been teaching chorus and band for grades 3-5 at the school for four years, and feels the song can resonate with her students, especially now during the coronavirus pandemic.
“It encompasses every emotion,” she said. “The lyrics are so powerful and it makes you tear up.”
Habersham said the community’s reaction to the video included “a lot of tears.”
“Not only from the scholars and their families, but from the teachers because they don’t see each other as well,” she said. “So there were a lot of happy tears from just hearing and seeing each other.”
Frohnhoefer added that since the video was posted on YouTube, students were able to comment easily because they’re so comfortable with that platform already. The students have also used the video to express themselves to their teachers, because now they’ve seen that their teachers are going through the same thing: being isolated at home.
“The scholars were excited to be able to see us,” Frohnhoefer said. “I think it left them a sense of comfort.”
Fortgang is hoping to find a way for students to send their own video messages to teachers next.
Habersham is proud of her “tight-knit” teachers for coming up with such a creative way to reach their students. The video ended with Habersham holding up signs that read: “COVID-19 can’t quarantine friendships.”
“Families are going through circumstances beyond my comprehension during this time,” she said. “So for them to come to their smartphones and see this, it gave our scholars a sense of normalcy.”