The school year is drawing to a close and high school seniors are mourning the many events and rites of passage that they are missing out on. While there’s no way to make up for that loss, teachers are doing what they can to celebrate their soon-to-be graduates.
Stonington High School science teacher Rosamaria Burger says, “They worked so hard for four years, and we want to make sure they’re getting everything they’re entitled to as best we can.”
Burger and fellow senior class advisor Catherine Ellis decided that one way they could show seniors some love was by delivering lawn signs to all 161 students in the graduating class. It was a way to communicate to seniors that their teachers are thinking of them, love them, and are there for them—a message that can be hard to convey digitally.
“We sent an email out to staff asking for volunteers to help deliver the signs, and 50 people responded,” Burger says. “I started crying realizing how much love my colleagues have for the kids.”
Burger adds that even seeing other staff when they arrived to pick up the signs was an emotional moment after months of interacting in-person only with her immediate family.
“Our seniors have been really bummed out, especially about losing their senior events—the prom, all the uncertainly about graduation—not even being able to say goodbye,” Burger says. “I don’t think any of us on March 13 really thought we’d be where we are today. I said ‘see you in two weeks’ to my colleague across the hall. Now the school year’s almost over and we’re all shell shocked.”
Delivering the lawn signs really helped to raise students’ spirits. Staff wanted to make sure there wasn’t any physical contact, so they mostly beeped their horns and waved. Students shouted their thank yous from inside.
“I have so many pictures of their smiling faces,” Burger says. “They’re 18-years-old, but you see the smile of a kid. They’re still kids. We only get to be that authority figure/love figure to them for a few more weeks. They just loved it. We got so many positive emails and messages.”
Burger says that, after a couple of months, she finally felt like she hit a groove with distance learning. There are many aspects of teaching chemistry and biology, however, that don’t translate well to a virtual environment.
“It’s been really hard not to have our usual labs,” Burger says. “I’m assigning students labs to watch on YouTube, but it’s just something that they’re not going to get to experience first-hand. They are learning the facts but not the skills of science. Hopefully when we come back in the fall they can get some experience with the skills.”
The lawn signs aren’t the only way Stonington is celebrating seniors. They also recently held the 63rd annual mother-daughter banquet, an important tradition for the district. They compiled photos, performances from students, speeches from staff members, and a duet by the choir director and her daughter, a graduating senior.
“It was a tearjerker for sure,” says Burger. “We’re trying to keep as many traditions alive as possible.”