COVID-19 pandemic provided challenges, opportunities for Twinsburg schools

April Helms
Kent Weeklies
Kathryn Powers, superintendent of Twinsburg schools, gives the State of the Schools address on Thursday at the Hilton Garden In Cleveland/Twinsburg.

TWINSBURG -- With last year's State of the Schools address canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Superintendent Kathryn Powers had a lot of ground to cover in this year's address.

Powers, along with several teachers and students, shared their thoughts and experiences in trying to teach and learn in the middle of the pandemic, which shuttered school buildings in March 2020 and forced districts to adapt to an online learning mode for the remaining months of that school year. 

"We have met every single challenge," Powers said of the students and staff in the past school year.

The State of the Schools address was given Thursday at the Hilton Garden Inn Cleveland/Twinsburg. 

Julie Cain, a first-grade teacher with the district, said she appreciated the training the staff was given.

"All in all, we had a lot of training in Google Classroom," Cain said. "The kids learned faster than I did."

Brian Davis, who teaches American History at R.B. Chamberlin Middle School, said "the biggest battle is the one between your ears."

"I had to remind the kids that this won't last forever," Davis said. "They'd ask me 'when will this be over?' 'This won't last forever.'"

Another challenge were concerns over screen time, Davis said. Too much time in front of screens can be problematic, so he said he tried to keep that in mind. But the need to do online learning did have an unexpected result.

"I found that students were asking me for a copy of books, the hard copy, one that they could hold, rather than the one they could find electronically," Davis said.

Davis added that he felt the Twinsburg City Schools did well in "not having a lot of disruptions" and keeping consistency" through this past school year.

Ryan Frank, a physical education teacher at the middle school, said implementing his curriculum proved to be a challenge, with some students taking online classes and limits on equipment use. Still, he said he encouraged his students to exercise, not just for physical health but for mental and emotional well-being. 

"It was not easy to do," Frank said. "But it was a blessing in disguise because it made me reevaluate my curriculum. I'm excited for the near future but am appreciative of the struggle. This past year has made me a better teacher."

Beth Wells, a KPP Preschool teacher at Wilcox, said it was challenging teaching her 4-year-old students computer skills, but shared a story about one of her pupils. During one of her virtual classes, a student came on and said that he had ridden his bike to school. Wells said she could see the bike in the living room; the student had ridden it to get to his laptop.

"He was so excited," Wells said. "He had ridden his bike to school."

Aidan Corrigan, a graduating senior, said his junior year had been a stellar one, in terms of both his grades and his sports competitions, particularly in wrestling, where he had qualified for the 2020 state tournament- which was canceled due to the pandemic.

"I'd never been so disappointed in something that wasn't my fault," Corrigan said. "It put me in a very poor mental state for a long time."

Corrigan said he also struggled to stay engaged with online learning.

"It was very difficult to do virtual assignments," Corrigan said. "I lost complete interest in the subject matter."

He credited wrestling coach Dave Mariola and assistant coach Chris Mohnacky for getting him back on track, who pushed him hard. It paid off: in March, Corrigan placed fourth in the 2021 state wrestling tournament at Hillard Darby High School. He was the first to place in the state tournament in nine years.

The pandemic was a challenge for many, "but looking back, I pushed hard to succeed," Corrigan said. 

Agness Glover, another graduating senior, said this "was a hard year" for her and her family. One challenge was when her mother was diagnosed with COVID-19.

"That was hard to get through," she said. 

However, Glover said she is looking forward to the future, which includes going to college to become a special education teacher.

"I then hope to circle back and teach at the high school," she said.

Powers said she was "so proud of all of our students."

Looking to the future, Powers said the district will release its summer programs and its plans for the 2021-22 school year soon.

The audience listens to the presentation of Kathryn Powers, superintendent of Twinsburg schools, as she gives the State of the Schools address. Around 70 people attended the event, which included a scholarship presentation before the address.

Scholarship recipients

In addition to the State of the Schools address, 11 graduating Twinsburg High School students were honored with 15 business and Chamber-sponsored scholarships. Allyson Tonozzi, the executive director for the Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce, said this was both the largest number of scholarships and the most applications the chamber ever had. In all, 37 students applied for the 15 sponsored awards.

The honored students included:

  • Xavier Branch, The Next LVL Athlete;
  • Samantha DiMuzio, Strachan Novak Insurance;
  • Connor Harris, Jill Gaba State Farm;
  • Nathan Hrach, Quest Financial and Insurance Services;
  • Sonyea Moore, HergGroup Living at Keller Williams;
  • Sajal Mutter, Angelo V. Carcioppolo, CFP-Skylight Financial Group;
  • Elyse O'Connor, Arts Now and Michelle Ciancio Creative, and M&G Pools;
  • Morgan Powers, Hillary B. Taylor, attorney;
  • Kara Pruett, M&G Pools;
  • Alexis Rauh, Crown Composites Tooling, and General Die Casters Inc.; and
  • Kathryn Vasiliauskas, Felber PR & Marketing, Life Hearing & Balance, and Twinsburg Chamber of Commerce.

Reporter April Helms can be reached at ahelms@thebeaconjournal.com