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A remarkable outcome of this pandemic has been all the innovative ways educators have devised to keep connections to your students strong. While most of us were busy brushing up on our technological skills to keep up with the sudden shift to virtual instruction, Eileen Seitz, a third-grade teacher at Lincoln Elementary in Bethlehem School District, went in the opposite direction.
Almost immediately after schools closed last March, Seitz wrote and mailed letters to each of her students and included paper and a self-addressed stamped envelope so anyone who wanted to could write back to her.
Her Pen Pals program was an instant hit, with 18 of her 21 students writing back.
“They shared all about what they were experiencing during this time with COVID-19, and how they were dealing at home with their siblings and managing the online work. So it was really, really special,” Seitz said. “I just wanted to let my kids know that I was thinking of them, and I would always be there for them.”
Not only did the project give kids something fun to look forward to that wasn’t screen-based, it also reinforced writing lessons from earlier in the year when Seitz taught her students how to write a friendly letter.
Seitz continues to interact with her students during online classes but said the pen pal project really helped bridge the gap in the uncertainty of those early months.
“I think it was also a nice way to stay in touch with the classroom because then when we did meet on Zoom we were talking about the letters that we were sending back and forth,” she said. “So it just gave students another way to stay engaged during a really difficult time.”