This year, the world of education has been shoved into the spotlight in a way it never has before.
We’ve watched as educators and administrators across the country made monumental decisions with minimal time and information at their disposal.
Many TBC alumni are in the education field: teachers, professors, guidance counselors, principals, and just about any other education title you can think of. Each of them faced a unique set of circumstances as they navigated the results of COVID-19.
Kim (Creel) Pierce is the principal of Brush Arbor Christian School in Orlando, Florida.
Kim began teaching at Brush Arbor the August after graduating from TBC in 2005 and taught there for five years. She married in 2011 and moved to Hawaii where her husband, David, was stationed for two years.
Upon their return to the mainland in 2013, Kim and David settled in Orlando once again. Kim resumed teaching at Brush Arbor, and when the principal retired in 2015 she was asked to assume the position of Principal which she continues to fulfil today.
Every school year brings challenges, but this one will go down in history.
Especially for Brush Arbor. And it started well before “the virus” took over. By January, five different teachers had been hospitalized (not simultaneously) for various unrelated health complications, including an emergency surgery for Kim. Her husband and her mom also went through serious health concerns during that time. Finally, in February things looked like they might fall into routine. But then — as you are so keenly aware — March arrived. And March flung all routines out the window.
Aside from “pandemic” and “COVID-19” becoming part of daily vocabulary, yet another teacher required surgery, and spring break plans (fun and otherwise) were quickly crumbling.
Kim had a gut feeling that returning to class after spring break just wasn’t going to happen.
However, being under 40 and instructing an entire school to pack up took some courage. “When I told my teachers to send the kids home with their things the day before the break, some of them looked at me in shock. At that point everyone was just talking about extending Spring Break. But with my husband being a military vet and working for Disney security, I had a different perspective of how this could possibly play out.”
“Honestly, I didn’t want to believe it myself. I had some mental tug-of-war, but deep down I knew it was what needed to happen.
All I can say is that God gave me perfect peace about a seemingly drastic decision. In the long run, it saved us a lot of time and last-minute panic.” Of course, that also meant that the school employees didn’t get a spring break. “As soon as we sent the kids home, I was going through scenarios and problem-solving how to get the rest of the school year up and running.”
Kim is thankful that they had a framework of new technology with which to work. Just last year, Brush Arbor students were first issued school email addresses and Chrome books, allowing them to integrate technology in every classroom. “If we didn’t have that much under our belt when this hit, I really don’t know what we would have done. As it was, we were having to learn all these new programs and methods.”
With practically no time for in-depth research, Kim was forced to make some quick decisions.
For the first two weeks, things were rolling so fast there was no time to stress. “We really didn’t even know what was out there to pick from, and the one thing I knew about was Google Classroom so we went with that. Looking back, it’s amazing how well we pulled this off, and I know I couldn’t have done it without the teachers we have. There were several times when I had to emphasize to them the importance of self-care. They were so invested and kept pushing their own well-being to the back burner.”
Many Brush Arbor students are from low-income families with few resources or Spanish-speaking households, so addressing those complications was a top priority.
“I literally just approached this as a math problem and took one piece at a time, tackled it, checked it off the list, and moved to the next thing. Once school started up again and I realized that things were actually going really smoothly, that’s when it hit me and I started to realize how much God directed us. This could have been such a huge disaster, especially considering that we were so technologically limited before this happened.”
Of course, some awfully big questions are looming: what will it look like to get back to school this fall? How to handle lunch time? Classroom size? Sanitizing routines? Teacher and student schedules? What if a second wave hits? It’s a big weight to carry and every decision impacts everything else.
Answering all these questions will make for a busy summer for Kim and Brush Arbor staff.
For all schools, really, but there’s an added element to Kim’s pressure: this is accreditation year. “If you’ve ever been through that process, you can imagine how badly this virus throws everything off. I’m in the middle of writing a self-study, and right now that’s looking a lot more complicated than it did before.”
For now, Kim is taking things one step at a time and celebrating the successes.
The school year has come to a close (check), her teachers are all doing well (check), and they already have plans in the works to move toward a blended learning style for next year (check)!
This week has been a busy one. The staff has worked hard to close out grades and make end of year awards and other special events an exciting experience for everyone.
Overall, even though this academic year was tough, it proved the determination and creativity of educators everywhere. And for Kim, it reinforced the importance of Christian education.
“We were super intentional in Bible… because we now had parents and grandparents listening in.” The Easter lesson in specific sparked several conversations with families who had questions or wanted to discuss it. “We easily had more direct Bible teaching reaching families that week than ever before.”
As we approach fall, please continue to pray for your educators. They will be making dozens of difficult decisions and adjusting their job descriptions accordingly. They will need wisdom to determine the best way to continue serving their communities.