There was a distinct contrast in the way spouses Brian and Anna Whartnaby, high school social studies and second grade teachers, respectively, experienced the last day of school before Timothy closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the high school, Principal Mitchell made the announcement at a special assembly. “There was a mixed reaction. For every student that seemed happy to be getting what they thought was an extended spring break, there were two or three others who had long looks on their faces,” Mr. Brian Whartnaby said, noticing this especially among seniors.
There was a different approach taken in the grade school. “For second grade and under, especially, we wanted our kids to have a normal day – to have a routine, for school to be a peaceful place, so they would not frantically leave Timothy at the end of the day wondering what was going to happen next,” said Mrs. Anna Whartnaby. “That Friday in chapel we sang He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands. To hear hundreds of students joyfully singing that song was really moving to me. It’s what we all needed to hear — that God is taking care of us and keeping us safe.”
Although Timothy took different age-appropriate approaches to handling that last day on March 13, the Whartnabys describe a similar camaraderie when it came to planning home learning.
“The preparation was fast and furious. It was a whirlwind,” said Mrs. Whartnaby. “You didn’t hear complaining because I think everyone could sense this was the time to buckle down, get together, make a plan and make it good. We wanted to make sure with home learning we would be the same nurturing, consistent Godly voices in their lives as we are in school every day. Almost overnight this amazing plan was put into place.”
We wanted to make sure with home learning we would be the same nurturing, consistent Godly voices in their lives as we are in school every day.
Mr. Whartnaby described a similar dynamic at the all-day high school staff meeting the following Monday, March 16. “Our administrators and teachers all have these unique gifts — from subject area, to personality types, to tech savviness — and all these great ideas were being shared. We were figuring out the best way to get information to our students and how to make the material come alive for them from our homes,” he said. “Obviously, this was a big challenge, but there was excitement, too. Let’s see how well we can do this.”
At home, their individual set ups reflect the ages they teach. Mrs. Whartnaby has transformed the dining room where she films into a little classroom, with the words of Psalm 46:1 visible in the background: God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Videos begin with a daily message, devotions and prayer.
“Right now, second grade classrooms have been doing a daily kindness challenge – how can you be a blessing to your family while you are home together? I love hearing stories of the kids taking ownership of that challenge — to see them following Jesus by loving their families,” she said.
For high school students, Mr. Whartnaby delivers devotions via Edmodo and connects with students during office hours. Social studies content is delivered mostly via voiceovers of slide shows.
Communication between the two teachers has been the key to successfully executing home learning while also caring for their infant son.
They each sorely miss the interaction with their students. “I miss the banter and the questions you anticipate, which can take conversations in totally new directions,” said Mr. Whartnaby. “I still feel the love from the students, though. They continue to send us encouraging messages.”
Of late, the Whartnabys have taken special comfort in Psalm 46, which was read at their wedding, used in Superintendent Matt Davidson’s recent devotion, and read in a livestream church service. “We know that God is in control and that he is our helper, especially in uncertain times,” Mrs. Whartnaby said.
The Whartnabys look forward to reuniting with colleagues and students. “I hope a new appreciation will spring from this – like good friends who realize how much they mean to each other when they are reunited after being away at camp,” said Mr. Whartnaby. “What we have at Timothy is really good. Let’s get back to it as soon as we can.”