West Jefferson Elementary School students persevere during the pandemic

West Jeff third graders learn from the community about COVID challenges

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We are all in this together.

That’s the takeaway for third graders at West Jefferson Elementary School who have weathered the COVID-19 pandemic and who have learned that others weathered it, too. The Pandemic Perseverance Project has taught them that everyone pivoted as they needed to, so they could survive and thrive.

West Jeff’s 34 third graders interviewed community members about their experiences, wrote essays based on what they learned and drew pictures of the people they interviewed. Their projects are being compiled into a book that students can have as a keepsake of their time going to school during the pandemic.

To top it off, Conifer Radio interviewed each student and professional about their experience.

The students learned that they and the professionals didn’t like wearing masks, but knew they were important to keep others safe — and sometimes we do things we don’t like. They learned they had to keep working even when things are tough.

They learned to persevere.

“We had a discussion about what was difficult and what skills they needed to overcome these challenges,” said teacher Nancy Aubin, who added that the project also helped bring the community back to the school. “We are really living history.”

Aubin and her colleague Lori Harrison brought in 34 professionals, including a veterinarian, mechanic, librarian, small business owner, bus driver, firefighter, grocery store worker, hair stylist, lawyer, nurse and police officer. Each was paired with a third grader.

Real estate agent Rachel Mulvihill found the project amazing because not only did students learn about pandemic perseverance but also about different careers.

“(Talking about my experiences working during the pandemic) makes me realize all we went through because of COVID,” she said.

Real estate agents used videos to show homes virtually to potential buyers, and she had to get used to being on camera. She also had to find solutions to keep both buyers and sellers safe.

Student Benson Caesar said he learned by interviewing Mulvihill that he was not alone.

“I learned that all of us had something to overcome,” Benson explained. “I feel I can be safe at school and learn to read and write.”

Third grader Caleb Kallander, who interviewed dental hygienist Cindy Linn, learned that dental hygienists had to wear additional protective gear while doing their jobs, so they didn’t get sick or get their clients sick.

Linn called Caleb a good interviewer, and Caleb now has a better understanding of how impactful COVID-19 was on people’s jobs.

Third grader Teyla Weber interviewed a veterinarian, who said the staff kept working and wouldn’t give up and stay at home, while third grader Harrison Wilkins explained that the police officer he interviewed said it was harder for officers to see expressions on people’s faces and to train in large groups.

Third grader Reese Chaney said she learned how COVID-19 changed people’s lives.

“It was interesting to learn about people,” she said. “Schools were not the only thing affected by COVID.”

She said she learned that not everyone had the same challenges, but they had challenges nonetheless.

Third grader Emily Davis said the health care worker she interviewed had to be tested for COVID-19 twice a week and wear a mask.

“She tried her best and persevered.” Emily explained, “Even though it was tough.”

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