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No Cost Covid Testing

Kansas City Public Schools is partnering with the Mid-America Regional Council, KC Cares, Samuel U. Rogers Health Center and Swope Health to offer no-cost COVID-19 testing for KCPS staff, students, families and community members.

KCPS Celebrates Church As Community Champion

The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Directors and Superintendent Mark Bedell honored Friendship Baptist Church as a Community Champion during a School Board meeting on Wednesday evening, Dec. 9.

KCPS Taps Trio As Terrific Teammates

The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Directors and Superintendent Mark Bedell recognized the following staff members as Terrific Teammates during a School Board meeting Wednesday evening, Dec. 9.

KCPS Honors Six Students As Scholar Superstars

The Kansas City Public Schools Board of Directors and Superintendent Mark Bedell recognized the following students as Scholar Superstars during a virtual School Board meeting Wednesday evening, Dec. 10.

KCPS Seeking Feedback from Families with Thoughtexchange

We want to stay connected and hear your questions and ideas about how we should move forward during this pandemic and in this educational landscape. With that in mind, we're asking KCPS families for five minutes today and another five minutes tomorrow to help us plan for the future. Please join our “Thoughtexchange” today to share your thoughts and questions.

Pivot International Donates 7,000 Shields to KCPS

Pivot International, a Lenexa, KS-based global leader in product design, development, and manufacturing, has partnered with Kansas City Public Schools to enhance maximal protection for students and staff with a gift of 7,000 safety shields.

KCPS Board of Education (BOE)

The Kansas City Public Schools IT support team is changing their hours of operation for walk-in support to 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. Monday through Friday at the BOE building, which is located at 2901 Troost Ave. in Kansas City, MO.

Lincoln Middle Debate Takes Tourney Title

The Lincoln Middle School debate team successfully made the case for being among the best in the region with a first-place finish in the DEBATE Kansas City (DKC) tournament held virtually on Thursday evening, Dec.3.

Teaching, and Learning, in the Time of COVID-19

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Ray Weikal


East High School teacher Jill Denzer

East High School business teacher Jill Denzer (PHOTOS BY: Ray Weikal/KCPS)

With the start of classes in Kansas City Public Schools, teachers are becoming learners as they adapt to new challenges and opportunities in public education brought on by COVID-19.

As infection rates increased throughout the summer in the Kansas City region, Superintendent Mark Bedell decided to keep school buildings closed for the time being and have students take either distance or virtual classes. KCPS gave faculty members the option to teach from classrooms in their schools while maintaining social distancing and other safe practices.

A recent visit with three teachers at East High School revealed the extent to which they are excited to be working with students again, while simultaneously learning how to adopt new, cutting-edge tools and techniques.

“Listen, I’m just really glad to be back in my classroom and seeing students every day,” EHS business teacher Jill Denzer said. “There’s a lot to catch up with, which is hard. But I have awesome kids, which makes it all worth it.”

Ms. Denzer has been at EHS for eight years, so it felt natural for her to teach in her classroom.

“It just feels more authentic and I think that translates over to the students,” she said. “They’re very good at sensing when a teacher is uncomfortable. That nervousness can really affect their ability to learn.”

When it became clear that students would not be returning to school buildings any time soon, the KCPS curriculum, school leadership and IT experts geared up to continue the work started in the spring to make digital learning the norm across our schools. A significant portion of that effort involved equipping and training teachers to utilize tools like flat-screen displays and applications like Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom and Seesaw.

This shift towards digital classrooms was prompted by Dr. Bedell’s determination that the COVID-19 crisis was an opportunity to evolve out of the “chalkboard era” of public education and into a truly 21st century model of teaching and learning. But any big evolution like this is always going to involve challenges that arise as abstract ideas translate into daily reality.

East High School band teacher Erin Smith

East High School band teacher Erin Smith

For many teachers, the first couple of weeks of classes have involved some frustrating moments as they and their students have worked through challenges. Erin Smith had the added challenge of teaching band classes for students who can’t be at school with their instruments.

“I think the biggest challenge is that we’ve had to take on a lot of new technology in a very short time,” Ms. Smith said. “But I’ve been so impressed by how my colleagues and my students are responding. It’s not ideal, but everyone is doing a great job under tough circumstances.”

The adoption of digital learning can be even more complicated in schools with a high proportion of English Language Learners, like EHS. But Denzer emphasized that ELL students should never be underestimated.

“I just go slow and take time to figure out how to be engaging,” she said. “The best thing is that the kids want to learn. They keep telling me that they want to be back in the classroom.”

Teaching during the COVID-19 crisis has only deepened Denzer’s love for her job and her school.

“I’ve never worked so hard in my life and I’ve never been as satisfied,” she said. “I get to listen to and advise my student, and that’s how you really build relationships.”

East High School history teacher Amanda Dennison

East High School history teacher Amanda Dennison

EHS 2020 Teacher of the Year Amanda Dennison is also leading her history and social studies classes from her room on the fourth floor of the school. She echoed Denzer’s comments about the strengths of her students, and encouraged students and families to be actively engaged in the educational process.

“I just really want students, parents and guardians to know that they can and should contact their teachers,” Ms. Dennison said. “We want to know that you are OK. And if things are not OK, we can help you get through it if you contact us.”

Ms. Smith advised students and families to persevere through these unusual times and understand that this is a learning experience for everybody.

“Just show up every day,” she said. “And have patience with your teachers, because we’re learning, too.”

Visit the "Reopening Schools" section of our website for helpful tips and guides for using our digital learning technology.

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