Huidan supported her Montessori classroom of 1st – 3rd grade students throughout the pandemic using a three-prong approach:
- build a caring community by addressing student’s mental-health distress through twice-daily check-ins,
- embracing technology, and
- encouraging a love of learning even while distanced through discussions and student presentations instead of lectures.
Each week, she prepared a comprehensive list of learning resources around one topic for the students, including E-books from myOn and Epic, videos from TED-ED, PBS and the Smithsonian.
“I would turn my role to a guide whose main job is to intrigue the students and to ignite their curiosity and imagination.” – Huidan Xu, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Grade Teacher
Each morning, she would present the students with a “big question”, challenging them to find the answer by exploring the provided resources, either independently, or in small groups. On Thursday afternoons, the students presented their research of the week to the whole class, and they furthered their learning by listening and commenting.
To support inclusive and equitable education for all, Huidan met with each student's parents 2-3 times a school year to get to know each family and connect them with resources they might need, like free school lunch pick-up for remote-learners. After Winter Storm Uri, she passed out many rounds of information of relief funds to the parents.
When one of her students asked, "I wonder if we can learn a different language from each other?" She quickly answered, "Why not?" and started new “language-learning breakout rooms” where some students volunteered to be teachers, and others chose a group to learn a language. Currently she has four language groups – Spanish, Vietnamese, Swahili and Chinese.
In her beginning-of-year to middle-of-year statistics, Huidan saw a 10 point growth in math and reading scores for each student, including getting 100% of her 2nd grade students reading at or above grade level.
With the Unconventional Thinking in Teaching grant, Huidan would purchase additional books and science equipment, including a microscope, for her classroom, memberships for educational websites for her students, and to complete her second summer of Montessori Elementary Teacher Training.