Superintendent's Corner: 'Crazy Quilt of Educating A Knight'

Kent Weeklies

Greetings to the Nordonia Schools community.

This month you are in for something a bit different - Superintendent Dr. Joe Clark has turned over this space to the Nordonia Hills Educators’ Association. We thank him for this opportunity.

Let me start off by introducing myself - this is Nate Loman, and I am the president of NHEA and have been for the past five years. I teach at the high school and am currently working with remote students teaching World History and overseeing many electives. Prior to this, I taught US History and Economics. I have been with the district for 22 years.

I am a bit reluctant to characterize these times as crazy because at this point that seems a bit trite. I really think this is something of the new normal for the immediate future, and actually think this is an opportunity for all of us to rethink how we “do school” in 2021 and beyond.

I reached out to our member and asked for “stories” from around the district. For this installment, Dr. Matt Berry will share his experience. Dr. Berry hits something of the Nordonia trifecta, because, as you will read, he is a staff member, lives in the district, and has children in our schools as well.

The Crazy Quilt of Educating a Knight (in a Pandemic)

By: Matthew Beery, PhD

On Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2020, the Nordonia Hills City School District had a foot of snow dumped on it during the first day of remote instruction.  And after teaching from my basement office, as I cleared my driveway, I had a community member wave me down to stop and say, “Hey — you’re a teacher, right?”

To this I said, “Ahh, yes,” while I killed the snow blower engine, so I could hear him.  

Being a teacher in the community I reside in means impromptu conversations at the grocery store, on the soccer field, at a cross country meet, mowing the lawn, while I am out for a run, or snow-blowing the driveway, so this wasn’t altogether foreign to me. 

This older gentleman continued and thanked me for all we are doing. His children are grown, but he has grandchildren and friends in our schools. “You have all been put in a really bad spot,” he continued, “but I know that you are all doing your best.”

I told him thanks and didn’t even get his name, but he gave me a wave and drove away up the snowy road. 

As a Nordonia resident, parent, and teacher — the Nordonia Hills City Schools trinity, if you will — this is not a rarity. Nordonia is filled with people who care. And for those educators, such as myself who choose to live here, we believe so much in what we do that we make sure our own children experience the wonders of our schools. 

Consequently, we treat each and every student just as if they were our own, and that is a characteristic that makes Nordonia special. But, this is a quality infused into all staff members, even those staff members who don’t send children to our schools. It is part of our fabric. 

Our conviction of educating each student as our own has made us successful during this global pandemic. For nine months and counting, we have all had to take on insurmountable challenges. We’ve had to endure health challenges, job challenges, family challenges, and schooling challenges. It hasn’t been easy on any of us. In fact, it has been really tough; maybe even the worst moments of our lives.

However I know, in large part, we have been able to flourish educationally and emotionally because of the close relationships we have between our schools and our community. Each day I am thankful that the parents of this community entrust me (as well as my colleagues) to educate their children. The bond we have forged is the only way we are even remotely able to overcome the obstacles of 2020. 

One of my favorite passages from the book, "To Teach: The Journey of a Teacher" by William Ayers, states, “A life in teaching is a stitched-together affair, a crazy quilt of odd pieces and scourged materials, equal parts invention and imposition. To make a life of teaching is largely to find your own way, to follow this or that thread, to work until your fingers ache, your mind feels as if it will unravel, and your eyes give out, and to make mistakes and then rework large pieces.”

This passage has never been truer than this school year. We have all felt discombobulated, exhausted, scared, angry, sad, unsure, and have definitely had to “find [our] own way” and “rework large pieces” of our lives. Nevertheless, our schools and the people associated with them continue to thrive because of the collective moments of kindness we have created with all residents, parents, teachers, students, administrators, and civic leaders.  And for that, I say thank you. 

Without a doubt, too, I know that we have tremendously talented Nordonia staff members. I see this up close with my colleagues at Nordonia High School, where I have been since 2004. But, I see it at Nordonia Middle School and Lee Eaton Intermediate School, where my two daughters — Emerson (7th grade) and Olivia (6th grade) are each day in person or remote. In each space, my daughters feel safe, secure, and academically and emotionally enriched daily. And I know that this kind of care is happening in our other buildings as well. 

The global pandemic has forced us to rethink how we educate our children. Schooling has been (and continues to be) a crucible and experiential learning lab that is filled with ups, downs, and side-ways moments. But, Nordonia staff members have risen to the top and shown their true mettle by using the processes put in place, but also by balancing the art and science of their craft. And along with our community partners, we have made all the difference together. 

For those of you who celebrate Christmas, you know that we were in the season of Advent.  Our thoughts were on waiting, wonder, and anticipation as we approached Christmas. The 2020 Advent season felt different, however. We are now waiting for a vaccine, waiting for the time we can hug parents, grandparents, friends, or even visit our favorite restaurant without thinking about safety protocols. We are waiting for our kids to go to giant sleepovers, parades, concerts, large sporting events, graduations, and family parties without the threat of — or even talk of — the pandemic, illness, or contact tracing. 

We are waiting for so many things to happen. However, the one thing we don’t have to wait for is a public school district filled with (and supported by) people who will use data, educationally-sound theory, technology, collaboration, communication, professionalism, kindness, compassion, flexibility, and understanding. We don’t need to wait for that kind of school district because we already have it — and we will only continue to see Nordonia Schools get better, as we learn even more about ourselves and the world around us.