British Columbia

B.C. teachers moonlight as filmmakers to connect with students using technology and humour

From virtual choir practices to homemade music videos, these educators are going above and beyond to reach out and let their students know they are missed and supported during the pandemic.

From virtual choir practices to homemade music videos, these educators are going above and beyond to reach out

Colebrook elementary teacher Brodie Halford performs lead vocals, back-up vocals and guitar while accompanied by colleague and music teacher Rick Maksymiw in a video the duo made to reach out to their students in Surrey, B.C. ( YouTube/Connecting with Colebrook)

If Surrey teacher Brodie Halford's students didn't know who Neil Young was before the pandemic, they might now.

Halford, who teaches kindergarten and grades 5 and 6 at Colebrook Elementary School, is one of many B.C. teachers finding creative ways — from virtual choir rehearsals to humorous YouTube music videos — to connect with students during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In Halford's case, he made his own music video cover of Young's song, Helpless, with help from from his colleague, Colebrook music teacher Rick Maksymiw. 

Maksymiw plays piano and Halford multitasks on vocals and guitar while also holding up messages for the kids.

"We are proud of them for being so brave and patient," Halford said on The Early Edition.

Watch Colebrook elementary teachers, Brodie Halford and Rick Maksymiw, perform for their students:

Melodie Langevin, choir director at Seycove secondary in Deep Cove, recently debuted her film director skills by creating videos to keep her students tuned in.

"I'm trying to recreate the choir classroom as best I can," said Langevin, also on The Early Edition.

Her plan is to release a new theme song every Monday after filming herself singing every part and editing it together over the weekend.

"It just shows how much she cares," said Grade 11 student Emily Janzen, who noted the videos not only keep the group practising, but also keep the ensemble connected to Langevin and one another.

Langevin holds rehearsals on the video platform Zoom once a week and said eventually she will gather audio from each student and edit it together for a virtual choir performance.

Watch Seycove secondary choir director, Melodie Langevin, teach a virtual lesson:

At Delview Secondary School in Delta, B.C., about 35 school staff collaborated on a music video set to Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra and in it, staff hold up messages for their students.

"They love to see us embarrass ourselves," said teacher Jonathan Kung.

Kung said almost every employee at Delview participated, including administrators and custodial staff. He said many students and alumni have reached out to say how much they enjoyed the performance.

"Our message to our students is no matter how you feel it is OK and we are here for you," Kung said on The Early Edition.

"This video is best enjoyed at least two metres away from strangers and those who speak moistly," reads the disclaimer on YouTube with a cheeky reference to a recent speech by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Watch Delview secondary staff perform Mr. Blue Sky by Electric Light Orchestra:

Former music teacher Dan Osborn took inspiration from a popular Disney franchise to express the uncertainty felt by him and his students during the pandemic. The Grade 4/5 teacher from Vernon changed the lyrics to Queen Elsa's song Into the Unknown from Frozen 2 to reflect how virtual classes are going. 

"The lyrics just try to capture the reality of what it's like for so many parents and teachers and families and students right now, trying to get all hooked up with technology, being tired of being stuck inside, missing their teachers' empty classrooms," he told Daybreak South host Chris Walker. 

Osborn has a small recording space in his home, so he taped his phone to a mic stand to record his video, downloaded some editing software, and recorded his song. 

Watch Dan Osborn perform his version of Into the Unknown from Frozen 2:

David Barnum, science teacher at Larson Elementary School in North Vancouver, used YouTube to take his students on a virtual field trip where he released salmon fry the kids had been raising in the classroom for months before schools closed.

Barnum said he filmed the salmon release with a couple of colleagues — not just because he wanted the students to see how the story ended, but so they can visit the spot where they were released.

In a strange plot twist, Barnum is actually hoping to use technology to get kids off computers and exploring their community.

Watch Larson elementary teacher, David Barnum, take his students on a virtual field trip:

He is also using the appeal of a beloved stuffed Baby Yoda.

The plush toy, said Barnum, is usually in the classroom, but now Yoda is out for rips on Barnum's bike and having his photo taken at various spots around North Vancouver.

David Barnum, science teacher at Larson Elementary School in North Vancouver, out for a bike ride with his classroom's beloved Baby Yoda stuffed toy. (Facebook/David Barnum)

Barnum posts the photos online and the name of the game is for his students to identify where Baby Yoda is hanging out.

"Yoda seems to have traction," Barnum said on The Early Edition Wednesday.

Yoda has even travelled over to the City of Vancouver to visit the iconic 9 O'clock Gun in Stanley Park, which is firing nightly now at 7 p.m. as a symbol of thanks to those working the front lines of the pandemic.

If you know a Metro Vancouver teacher who has gone above and beyond to connect with students, or you are a teacher who would like to share your creative methods, email details to earlyed@cbc.ca.

With files from The Early Edition and Daybreak South

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