Bethesda Magazine: January-February 2021

Page 82


SCHOOLS & EDUCATION continued from page 78

When Northwest High School art teacher Robert Youngblood was on a Zoom with his students and heard them talk about how “bummed” they were to be taking classes from home, he realized they needed something to shift their focus. “This is a new way of teaching, and it’s a new way of learning for these kids,” he says. In October, the popular track and chess team coach came up with an idea: He asked the 125 students in his five art classes to send a “letter from the heart” to someone they love, and to decorate the border. Most of his students had never written an actual letter, he says, and he wanted them to imagine how much their words could mean to the recipient. He arranged for students to pick up the art supplies and stamped envelopes outside at the Germantown school, where he’s taught for 20 years. Some kids wrote in Farsi to relatives overseas; others expressed gratitude to their parents at home. Several sent their letters to Youngblood himself. I've never told you this, one student wrote. You are like a father figure to me, I don't have a dad. I don't have a big brother. The letters included intricate borders sketched or painted with designs of flowers and sea creatures. Students were excited to share the responses—one teen showed his class a letter from his grandmother that he’d posted on his wall. “I knew they would buy into it,” Youngblood says. “It was a lesson about life and love.” Northwest High School student Amberlee Hsu’s letter




When Maura Moore isn’t teaching English to her students at Takoma Park Middle School, she’s often crocheting for them. The Crofton mother of three makes small crocheted balls with two shiny black eyes that fit in the palm of a hand, and gives them to students as a form of recognition. She’s handed out hundreds of the beloved “meeps”—one of her students named them—which are fun and comforting to hold. “Everyone has something worthy of being praised,” she says. “Some people don’t realize that about themselves, and I want them to have that moment where someone sees them.” Even with county school buildings closed, she’s continued naming a “Meep of the Week” in each of her six classes. “Right now it’s hard to feel connected to people because you can’t be with them,” she says. “You can send them this little thing that lets them know even though I can’t be with you, I care about you.” Moore mails the meeps to her students, along with a personal note complimenting them for anything from having a good attitude to using imagery in their writing. “It’s brought so much to my life, in school and out of school,” says Moore, who often sees students with their meeps nearby or flashing them on camera during class. “I will keep making them as long as people keep wanting them.”

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