Hello everyone! My name is Jaime Schrade and this is my first full year as the Assistant Principal at Crain Elementary in Victoria ISD. I was hired and began the Assistant Principal role in January 2020. Unfortunately—due to COVID-19—I did not even complete a half year with students on the campus. My teaching experience began with six years teaching students math in grades 6–8, then I was hired as the Elementary Math Curriculum Coordinator for the school district for the last four years. I love working with both students and adults!
Now that you have the backstory, you know why I am super excited about starting this school year; hopefully—fingers crossed—I get to experience the entire school year. As the Elementary Math Curriculum Coordinator, I was able to work closely with all 14 elementary schools over the past four years. During that time, I was able to see how each school choose to operate—regarding schedule choices, arrival/dismissal procedures, cafeteria procedures, and everything encompassing curriculum. I always refer to that stint of time in my career as my “student-teaching” to prepare me for my current role as a campus administrator. I have been patiently waiting to put to use all of my experiences and skills to best support my principal in opening our school back up to students.
Let’s jump to the start of the school year, Tuesday, August 18, 2020. This week was our first week of remote only learning. The night before school, I stayed up thinking about all the “what if’s” that could happen. For example, “what if our technology crashes?” “What if the students are not able to login?” “Did every student get their schedule?” “Are my teachers ready?” You know, the thousands of unanswered questions and doubts that go through your head—at least a teacher’s head—the night before school starts on any given year. The morning came and I was expecting parents to show up to just drop their kids off at school—even though it is remote learning only—register late, pick up technology, or complain about their child not able to login to get instruction for the day. Instead, the morning was amazing! There was a continuous steady flow of visitors coming to the office, but never more than two at a time—ideal for COVID-19 compliance. These families were registering, picking up technology, and were very supportive and understanding of the current situation. The phones in the office rang all morning, but there was a significant decrease in the afternoon. Most of these calls consisted of verifying a student’s login information; an easy answer was given and again parents were satisfied.
It didn’t take long to realize the office was running smoothly so I began to login to classroom meetings via Microsoft Teams to check on our teachers and students. The moment I saw the students faces, I got teary eyed because I missed them so much! It was wonderful to see them again and it was evident they were so excited to see their teacher and friends again, in any capacity.
I turned my attention to the actual instruction and was shocked; with the exception of very few minor technical issues, there was quality instruction happening. Our teachers looked like professionals! It was as if they had years of experience teaching their students in this capacity. The entire staff had attended several sessions of professional development over the last few weeks to help them prepare, but it was obvious that they really learned it on their own time because they knew what was best for our kids. I saw Seesaw activities, Brainingcamp math manipulatives being used, BrainPOP videos, and Nearpod activities incorporated into their synchronous instructional time. Again, this is on the first day of school! They were establishing norms for their virtual classrooms and setting expectations. The paraprofessional support was also a sight to see! They were managing the chat room in order for the teacher to give continuous instruction without being interrupted.
I felt very proud of our faculty and staff! Every individual—from custodial, front office, cafeteria, teachers, instructional coaches, and paraprofessionals—rolled with our new “normal” and exceeded all expectations.
Beginning Tuesday, September 8, 2020, we will have most of our student population back on campus with face-to-face instruction, while others are choosing to continue with remote instruction. All district principals are working together to create back-to-school plans that keep our students, staff, and families safe. There are countless details involved, but we will work through them all—one at a time. I am not going to lie, this can easily become overwhelming very fast. In order to stay sane, you have to focus on only one detail at a time until the entire plan comes together; all the while knowing that ‘the plan’ will have to be changed about 50 more times before it will actually work.
Our campus mission is to inspire hope and perseverance by building relationships in a safe, nurturing environment while educating confident, lifelong learners who positively contribute to our community. We want our educators, community, and families to collaborate, achieving the highest level of quality learning as possible in the safest environment possible. Everyone has already exceeded my expectations—including myself. Together, we got this!
Jaime Schrade, M.Ed.
Crain Elementary, Victoria ISD, Texas