Innovators from distance learning

Warwick. Superintendent’s Spotlight: Anya and Jonah Campbell

| 18 May 2021 | 01:10

Sister and brother Anya and Jonah Campbell have enjoyed getting the most out of their year studying in the district’s Distance Learning Academy.

The fifth and tenth grade students, respectively, have managed to maintain their grades, found creative ways to stay in touch (and in collaboration) with their peers and have even spearheaded a couple of unique projects which have benefitted their peers, too.

Decidedly different

For a first year in Middle School, Anya’s was decidedly different than what she – or anyone – would expect, but she has enjoyed the unique remote learning experience that Ms. Flynn and Ms. DeRobertis’s DLA classroom has provided.

Additionally, Anya loves that she’s been able to stay active in both chorus and playing bass in the middle school orchestra, thanks in large part to the flexibility of the technology the district has provided this year.

“Keeping in touch with my friends has been important, so it’s been great to be able to set up Google Meets and chat rooms to talk to each other outside of school, as much as in classes” said Anya, whose appreciation of the technology inspired her to set up her own Student Help Desk for DLA classmates.

Billed as a “place where DLA students can go if they need help with any online resources that Warwick Valley Middle School uses,” Anya began working on the project in November as a way for her to organize her own resources and understanding of the technology being used as part of the DLA. She soon came to realize that the information could be helpful to others.

Resources and links, virtually

“When I realized in February or March that the information would help my friends and classmates, and I started making the actual website that I presented to my class,” she said. The site includes links to all of the major platforms that the district’s DLA has utilized this year, including the entire Google Suite, Kami, FlipGrid and others. She has expanded her content to include custom video tutorials, interviews, and an extra help section that provides key info by academic subject.

Anya is also a member of the 2021 Middle School Odyssey of the Mind team, which earned 1st place in the Region and 2nd place at the State level – all accomplished virtually.

“I started as an OMER in fourth grade, so that year I was able to go to the Regional competition in person, but then the State and World competitions were just virtual,” she said. “So I’ve actually never been to State rounds in person, but I was able to do it virtually and that was really fun.”

A brother’s original music

Jonah, a tenth grade honor roll student, has found collaborations with classmates through his studio music class with Ms. Maynard to be an invaluable source of connection and creative energy during the pandemic. Also a member of the Meistersingers, he says he’s produced a lot of original music with friends this year, and that he plans to keep on going.

“It’s very fun and it keeps me occupied,” he said. “The major thing with studio music is that it’s almost impossible to make a song without collaboration, so I’m almost always working with someone else and using the technology to share files in order to get a song done.”

Among Us: Warwick

Their mother, Leigh Jonaitis, points out that sometimes that musical collaborator is Anya, herself. In fact, in January, Jonah built upon another of he and Anya’s shared interests when he formed the online gaming group Among Us: Warwick. When Anya wanted a way to play the popular online game with peers, Jonah went through the process of setting up a Facebook group. He also devised a plan for hosting games along with simultaneous Zoom calls, so that participants as young as 9 – 12 could join the fun in a safe and monitored environment.

His plan was to host one game a week, but that quickly grew to twice a week as interest was through the roof. Since the start of 2021, Jonah has hosted more than 25 sessions for dozens of local youths and their families.

“I also figured out that (the gaming group) would be a good way to get some community service hours under my belt,” said Jonah.

He worked with high school counselor Mary Fox to have his unique type family outreach during quarantine recognized as such, and even Assistant Principal Sweeney has been into learning more about the project.

Jonah is also a member of Youth in Government and Debate Club, both of which he has been thankful to be able to participate in remotely. The siblings and their entire family have been grateful for the district’s steps in making sure students enrolled in the Distance Learning Academy have had a robust year of education.

“I’ve been thrilled with all of the opportunities that the district has offered this year in terms of those students who have been in the DLA,” said Leigh Jonaitis. “Of course, we’re looking forward to them hopefully being able to go back to the Middle and High School buildings next year, but this year they haven’t missed a beat.”

Anya and Jonah are both hopeful for the same thing, too, but it’s possible that Anya, the fifth grader, may be just a tiny bit more so over the prospects of next fall.