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Sandy Journal

Sandy Elementary provides virtual lessons for parents during pandemic

Mar 22, 2021 04:50PM ● By Julie Slama

All Pro Dads at Sandy Elementary is so important to second-grade teacher Zach Van Dyke, seen here, that he spends time recording the lessons and posting them online so the program can continue during the pandemic. (Photo courtesy of Sandy Elementary)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Every other month, a group of dads or male figures would join their kids at Sandy Elementary for a lesson and activity to build those bonds. Female role models would meet on opposite months for a lesson how best to support their children and have a continental breakfast with their kids at school. 

That was before COVID-19.

While no in-person large group gatherings are allowed following safety and health guidelines during the pandemic, those at Sandy Elementary found a way to continue providing the support to parents—virtually.

“Zach Van Dyke goes through the entire All Pro Dads lesson and records himself for the fathers and students so they can do them,” Sandy Elementary Community Schools Facilitator Isa Connelly said. “He feels so strongly about it. He really is the energy behind it.” 

The program, which also is translated into Spanish by Principal Shawn Walker, then is posted on the school’s website, Facebook page and on its YouTube page. There also is information about it in the school newsletter. The Moms Matter programs are available online as well.

Connelly said All Pro Dads topics have ranged from compassion to humility. Moms Matter topics are tied into important issues surrounding children and families, such as internet safety and reading strategies.

“When we shut down last March, every single family could have a hot spot and Chromebook so we know they have access to it. It’s such an important program to us we want to get it out to our families to offer support, especially in time like this,” said Connelly, who added that now families can access the videoed programs at their convenience. “Students need to know that their home, their parents are a safe place. They can provide us direction in this time of uncertainty.” 

Van Dyke, who teaches second grade, said that the national All Pro Dads program began at the school two years ago when they wanted to build their community. 

“This program helps strengthen the relationships between kids and their dads,” he said. “Sometimes parents don’t know how to have these conversations with their kids, so this helps them take those first steps.”

Van Dyke said it was a natural transition to be a positive role model as a male teacher who leads the program.

“I’ve had students who don’t have male figures in their lives, so I’ve been able to share with them. Anytime I teach, I love to share my own experiences,” he said. “For example, one topic is about passion, what is the passion in your life? It gives students and their dads or male figures an opportunity to talk about what it is and why it’s worthwhile to them. Sometimes, we wouldn’t know things about one another if we didn’t have these conversations.”

Van Dyke also has similar conversations with his 5-year and 7-year-old daughters.

“I have one daughter who loves to act and another who wants to get into calligraphy,” he said. “I see kids ask a lot of questions that prompts their dads to share their experiences. It’s when I see them listening and sharing and explaining—that’s when the magic happens.”

As a result of these conversations, Van Dyke said he sees a direct correlation to school.

“When a child has positive role model, they do better in school,” he said. “Then, when they do better in school, they can see that they may be able to become who they want to and what career they want.”

Van Dyke said in his classroom, he talks about the importance of schoolwork and their goals.

“It’s hard to be happy when they’re dealing with hard things, but if we can help provide them the tools they need and the support they need, it will help them with their academics and becoming better people,” he said. “These conversations make a difference.”