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Reconnecting through a caravan

By Julie Matuszewski; photos courtesy of Debbie Rochau

Freshman Jatin Thimmannagari

Freshman Jatin Thimmannagari may see his teachers and friends on video, but today his spirits brightened and Jatin felt as though he was dreaming the visit from his teacher Jerome Price.

As part of the curriculum for the significant support needs (SSN) program at Rock Canyon High School, students learn life skills that they can carry with them after high school. Before the Douglas County School District transitioned to remote learning, students were shopping for cooking ingredients at local stores or learning on-the-job training as a part of their independent living lessons. Now replaced with video calls and online lessons from teachers, students have been feeling physically disconnected from one another.

SSN teacher Debbie Rochau noted that these past few months have been challenging and difficult times for us all, but for the SSN students, this time has been especially confusing. Many of the students have no real understanding of the current changes and why they are unable to see their friends and teachers.

The SSN education team decided to reconnect with their students by hosting a car caravan. The team surprised each of the 22 students, driving to their homes in parade fashion. They celebrated the students with signs of encouragement, congratulations and goody bags filled with SSN team keepsakes. Rochau felt the caravan was important to keep the students motivated during the remainder of the school year and to assure the students that their teachers are real and present and not just an image they see on the computer screen each day.

Photo of SSN teachers Jerome Price and Debbie Rochau

Excited SSN teachers Jerome Price (left) and Debbie Rochau (right) share a happy moment in spirit of Rock Canyon High School and its SSN students.

Tears of emotion showed the parents’ gratitude. The families of the SSN students recognize the time each teacher took going the extra step to care for their kids, not just on this day but every day. Jennifer Barela’s son Eddie, was one of the students visited. Barela could not thank the SSN staff enough for the love they showed Eddie during the visit. Barela said watching the caravan pass by brought tears to her eyes. She is so thankful for the support they give Eddie.

SSN educational assistant JoLynn Juris knew she missed her students, but she did not realize how much until, after weeks of remote learning, she actually got to see them and say hello in person. Juris said, “The students fill my heart in ways that nothing else does.”



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