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Meeting Our Students Where They Are: Canterbury Opens Spring Semester with Distance Learning Plan

Kelly Slonaker

Canterbury began the spring semester remotely on March 30, implementing a distance learning plan in light of COVID-19. The School’s extended spring break allowed faculty and staff time to further develop their technological skills and hone online teaching and learning strategies to continue to offer students the best possible educational experience. Though certainly an adjustment, the distance learning plan’s use of tools such as Veracross (Canterbury’s learning management system) and Google Suite that are already familiar to students and faculty has helped ease the transition to distance learning.

The distance learning plan includes both “synchronous” (live) and “asynchronous” (on-demand) learning opportunities through Zoom and Google, with teachers available daily for scheduled “office hours.” In addition to virtual class time and office hours, students meet four times weekly with their advisors. The advisory meetings kick off the academic day and offer an opportunity to check in with students to see how they are doing, how their local communities are managing the impact of coronavirus, and what their needs are from the School. A Daily Bulletin has replaced in-person school meetings and provides important announcements (including birthday shoutouts), the day’s schedule, a daily prayer via video from our Sacristans, and health tips for all students. Canterbury produced its first virtual (pre-recorded) School Meeting on April 9, and will host virtual Form Meetings in the weeks to come.

Keeping the health of the community at the forefront, Canterbury has created a Health and Wellness page for students that includes emotional health and coping strategies; physical fitness ideas and challenges; nutrition tips; virtual appointment booking with the School’s nurses, athletic trainers, and counselors; and a space to submit questions about nutrition, fitness, health, wellness, and spirituality to corresponding faculty and staff. Four days a week, the Counseling Department is offering a series called Morning Mindfulness with the intention to teach students and faculty how to practice mindfulness and stay present through challenging times. Additionally, teacher and athletic trainer Steve Gooler is posting weekly workouts and even customizing fitness plans by request for students and faculty to help them stay active without needing to leave home or use athletic equipment. To stay connected with our families, Canterbury is also offering a Weekly Q&A via Zoom for parents with Head of School Rachel Stone, Director of Health Services Colleen Cook, and other members of the Administrative and Health teams.

While the circumstances leading to distance learning were unexpected, it has been inspiring to see Canterbury’s faculty and students approach the endeavor with the same tenacity, enthusiasm, and curiosity as always. After the initial week of distance learning, Associate Head of School for Academics Sue Roberts shared, “At the conclusion of the first full week of distance learning, the feedback from our students and faculty was overwhelmingly positive. Moving forward we remain committed as ever to maintaining our connections and further strengthening relationships in new ways while providing a meaningful educational experience.” 

Finally, as this extraordinary community continues to not only sustain itself but grow stronger, our students have been using social media to connect and find levity through self-made videos, and sharing photos and quotes about what they miss from the hilltop and what it means to be a Saint. To be sure, the Canterbury community remains united and the School’s Five Values — Honesty, Respect, Compassion, Spirituality, and Self-reliance — are being exemplified daily, along with a healthy dose of joy and humor. No matter where they are, our Saints continue to earn an education for life.