HAMPDEN, Maine (WABI) - With computer screens replacing classrooms, teachers are having to think creatively to keep kids engaged.
An ELA instructor in Hampden is giving students something to look forward to every morning.
"Good Morning Kiddos- Happy Tuesday, Happy St. Patrick's Day, Happy First Day of Distance Learning."
ELA instructor Karyn Field was ready to celebrate St. Paddy's day in her 8th grade classroom at Reeds Brook Milddle School in Hampden. Then came word over the weekend that they would be switching to remote classrooms.
"I was going to be the first person they were coming into contact with on that first day of distance learning, and because I had purchased all this St. Patrick's Day stuff, I thought- Well, I'll just do a video with it."
The response was good, really good. So, Field decided to record another segment later in the week. It features her dancing to Baby Shark while wearing foul weather gear, yellow slicker hat included.
"We kept hearing the un-chartered water so I figured, let's do something with that," says Field with a smile. "And that really was going to be it."
But the cast of characters kept on coming. There's Buddy the Elf with a message of "turn that frown upside down" complete with happy and sad smile faces painted on paper plates. In one video, Field dresses as an alien. In another, she's sporting extra large sunglasses and a sun costume.
"We were trying to find a new sense of normalcy and I figured this would be our sense of normal along with a little fun," says Field.
Her themes come from a costume box as well as some outside the box creativity.
"It gives me something to look forward to. It makes me feel feel like I am connecting with them," says Field.
In addition to giving students something to smile about, Field also infuses messages of hope. She calls it- Focus on the Good.
"Every one, I try to end with- here's something good that's happening," says Field. "And then they have a weekly survey where they share their good with me."
Field isn't afraid to share her own feelings in the videos, talking about how lost she felt after finding out students wouldn't be returning to the classrooms for the remainder of the school year.
"I knew it was going to happen up here," she says in the video, pointing to her head. "But I wasn't prepared for it here," she adds, resting her hand on her heart. That segment begins and ends with the song, Changes from David Bowie.
During april break, field encouraged her students to take on a unique or eccentric hobby. Hers was searching for Sasquatch. It turns out the school had a life sized cutout of Bigfoot from a previous production. Field was able to get a hold of the super-sized flat Stanley. When the students returned from spring break, Field played a video featuring a montage of photos of her with Bigfoot- at the school, at the Bangor waterfront, at Gifford's ice cream, playing scrabble together, reading together.
"And then I thought, go big or go home," says Field. "We went to Paul Bunyan. And if you go to Paul, then you have to go to Stephen King's house."
Field plans to continue until the end of the school year. There is a slight problem, however.
"I'm starting to run out of costume ideas," she says with a laugh. "I'm going to have to get really, I'm going to use the word creative but it's really desperate."
Field already knows what her grand finale will be-
"Just plain ole me. Talk to them about how grateful I am that, I'm getting emotional. These are the kids that I'll never, we never forget our students but this class is going to be special."