Houston, TX

Moreno Elementary teachers use summer school to close learning gaps

Jessica Yang

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HOUSTON, TX — The enrollment for summer school at Moreno Elementary School has increased this year, as it has at schools across Houston Independent School District, and teachers are using summer school to lessen some of the learning losses incurred during the pandemic.

For teachers, it is an opportunity to see students in their classrooms, some for the first time in-person. Not only teachers, but plenty of students are also attending to help close the learning gaps from the previous year’s various challenges due to the pandemic.

The summer school’s theme at Moreno is Summer Safari, displaying lions, tigers or even a few bears in the hallways. This theme is giving students the chance to see wild animals without ever having to leave their classrooms.

Elizabeth Mulkins, Reading Lab Teacher at Moreno Elementary said, “Normally I teach summer school to help close the gaps for the kids. This summer, it was really nice to see the kids come back in person. Some of them we’ve only seen virtually. To get to see who they are and see them in person is fun.”

This year’s summer school is a welcome return to something “almost normal” for Mulkins. But, she said that it has still been a challenging year for all teachers.

“I’ve been teaching for ten years. But this year, everyone was a first-year teacher,” she said. “It was new for everyone. No one was prepared for it. It was incredibly hard, but everyone came out on top.”

In summer school, students are given a chance to catch up on traditional classes, but it also grants them with programming—from community partners such as Brighter Bites, the Houston Food Bank, or Young Audiences—that permit students to study anything from nutrition to the performing arts.

Mulkins stated, “It gives them all these enrichment opportunities that they wouldn’t normally get in the school year. It’s so great to see the students react to these new experiences.”

Even though summer school only lasts for a few short weeks, it is more crucial this year than ever. Furthermore, for teachers like Mulkins, it’s a relief to finally have students in the class.

“We are your counsellor, we are your friend, we are your nurse, sometimes we’re your mom,” Mulkins said. “We are all of that and we have to teach you. I’m so glad they are here in the building where we can see them and build those relationships and see what they need.”

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