FAMILY & PARENTING

Dedicated Kindergarten Teacher Makes Every Virtual Class An Adventure For Her Students

by Karen Belz
Karen Belz has written for sites such as Bustle, HelloGiggles, Romper, and So Yummy. She's the mom of a sassy toddler and drinks an alarming amount of Sugar-Free Red Bull in order to keep up with her.

School looks very different this year. While some kids are going back to their physical buildings to a limited-size classroom and social distancing practices at play, other kids are learning online.

Thanks to Zoom, many classrooms are right at home. And we should really give a hand to the teachers for making it all work.

While teaching changes up every year, most teachers have a set routine. Their classroom is like a second home. And their social lives often intermingle with other teachers. By working from home, many teachers have been thrown off course. But while this year has been a series of trial and error for many, some teachers have gone above and beyond to prove how flexible they are.

Some teachers just want to teach, regardless of where they may be teaching from.

That’s one of the reasons whyย Kayla McCourt from Monterey Bay, California, is so special. Kayla is a kindergarten teacher who really wants to make the year special for her students. So what does she do? She dresses up in costume and makes every moment count. Even better, her roommate โ€” who happens to be her sister โ€” is also loving every minute.

Kayla’s sister, Shannon, is able to sit in on these lessons since the two are roommates. In fact, Shannon initially made Kayla’s lessons go viral just by taping her and putting her on TikTok. Without a doubt, every day Kayla comes prepared with a ton of energy and spirit. Every day is something new.

Known as Ms. McCourt to her students, Kayla started teaching remotely in the middle of March, right as households and businesses were in the midst of closing due to the virus. She’s continued on with it and has developed quite a repertoire. As Shannon captioned a TikTok, “She DEF doesn’t get paid enough.”

“I basically wake up to nursery rhymes in the morning,” Shannon told Good Morning America. “She’s in costumes every day, making up her own songs … the kids are obsessed with her.” Currently, as of August, Kayla’s virtual class consists of 17 students.

In one of the first videos she shared, Kayla can be seen pretending to swim while dressed as a scuba diver. In her room, she set up her classroom perfectly. The lesson is in the background, and her laptop โ€” with all of her students watching with excitement โ€” is perched right up front. The costumes are definitely something that’s become a standard when it comes to her class.

According to Good Morning America, Kayla has also dressed up as a butterfly, a ladybug,ย  a pineapple, an ice cream cone, and an archaeologist. Surely, more costumes are to come as the year goes on. While she may not be paid enough, she’s definitely being paid to have fun and teach some important lessons along the way.

It’s also important to state that kindergarten can be a tough age when it comes to virtual learning. By being so bubbly, Kayla is doing her part in trying to make sure her students pay attention. It’s likely that many of them don’t have as much experience with computers due to their age. Between that and their shorter attention spans, virtual learning โ€” as a concept โ€” may seem impossible.

“I would always do silly things in the classroom, but the daily dress-up was a new thought,” said Kayla. She admits that she got the idea during shutdowns from the virus. Her video in the wetsuit got over 5 million views on TikTok and earned her a ton of fans, all who wish they could also sit in on her class.

“I’m happy with all the positivity that’s been spread,” Kayla said. “It’s really rooted from me wanting to do what’s best for my kids and me just missing them.” Many elementary school teachers love the fact that as their former students grow up, the teachers still may be able to see them in the building. But with social distancing, that is also impossible.

Kayla isn’t the only teacher going above and beyond for her students.ย Jennifer Martin from Texas is another elementary school teacher who’s making a huge difference for her children. After learning that many students in her class didn’t have access to a library, she chose to build her own out of her house. And she’s got thousands of titles available.

Jennifer works as a reading teacher, so the issue was even more problematic. How could she get her kids to love reading when they didn’t have the resources? “It was a no-brainer,” she told Good Morning America. “In order to create a lifelong reader, a student has to find the joy of reading.”

Jennifer shares her home with her father, who seems overjoyed by his daughter’s dedication to education. “The stars just aligned that I don’t have children and I don’t have a garage full of toys, so I have the space,” she said. “And I live in a neighborhood where 40% to 50% of our [elementary school] kids live.”

While Jennifer visited their closest library, it was often a trek for her children due to the fact that it was 15 miles away. She is a fan of buying books, so it’s almost as if the opportunity presented itself. “I would just go in and see so many titles that I knew my kids wanted,” she said. “I don’t need to go out to eat for fancy food. Instead, I can spend $20 and get dozens of books.”

These two women are living proof that education can happen anywhere โ€” it doesn’t have to only be in a classroom. As long as we have dedicated teachers who truly love their job, the kids are going to be OK. As stressful as these changes are, nothing can stop the dedication of a quality teacher.

Teaching isn’t an easy job, but it’s incredibly rewarding. While Kayla is having a good time, her kindergarten class is more engaged than ever. They’ll always remember this year thanks to Kayla’s costumes, enthusiasm, and good humor. And Jennifer will always be providing her neighborhood with such an important resource. Books are still very important and a great way to show that reading can be a wonderful hobby.