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May 6, 2020

Alumni on the Frontlines: Dr. Kimberly Stearns Higgins'92 (Music Education)

What year did you graduate from Roberts and what was your degree?

I graduated from Roberts in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science in Music Education.

Where do you teach?

I am a teacher at Pioneer Middle School in Western New York. Our district is rural and about 50 miles south of Buffalo.

What is it like to be a teacher during the COVID-19 pandemic?

It is different to say the least. Preparing to continue my curriculum online has been challenging. I spend many hours at the computer putting up assignments, checking assignments, conversing with students sometimes about assignments and sometimes about how they are doing.

How did the Music Education program at Roberts prepare you for this health crisis?

Being a music major is really busy and you have to have good time management skills. I learned that at Roberts and that has helped me be able to manage my time and keeping track of over 200 students online. Also, the biggest thing I learned at Roberts is that I teach students first and a curriculum second. My school district believes this too. We spent the first few weeks of the quarantine making sure students were fed and safe, then we worked on providing academic material. Every teacher has a group of students they check in on every week to make sure they are ok. I have 13 8th grade ladies I check in on. Some are in stable homes and doing well, others need support. Taking care of their emotional support is first. Roberts taught me that.

How do you remain positive?

I have always worked at finding my joy everyday and writing it down so I can see it. I also remind myself everyday that God is on the throne through all of this. My department is close and we meet through zoom every week which is where we get information from the department leaders meeting with the administration and we help each other work out problems with online learning. I have reached out to other teachers in my building as well who seem to be struggling with online learning and try to offer help to them.

How can you support others in your profession during the pandemic?

I think patience is the key. I don't know of any public school teacher that was ready to go fully online. If I knew I was going to teach online I would have designed my curriculum differently from the start. It put many teachers is crisis mode at first. Now, we have to decide what is the MOST important concept for the student to learn, give them a small bit of instruction, have them try it, and assess as to whether they have the concept or not. We need to be patient with ourselves, with our fellow teachers, with the parents, and with the students.

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