NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — When the COVID-19 pandemic kept Carolyn Harris and her first-grade students from meeting in person, she found a way to keep them engaged, while in the virtual classroom.

And sometimes, that meant bringing in a little help.

“So, Noah, would you like to read that for us?” Harris stared intently at one of about 16 square boxes on her TV screen. Noah, feels the gaze and locks onto the projected words.

“His body and his feet are half frog!”
“That’s so awesome,” says Erin Dealy, who wrote those words in the book “Peter’s Easter Frog.” Dealy is a guest author for this zoom class, hosted by Ms. Harris, who joins in with the praise of Noah’s effort, clapping and laughing,” Great job!”

Through the year-long pandemic virtual classes, this longtime Carver Elementary school teacher has brought in nationally known authors to share her enthusiasm with students for reading and writing.

“Another thing that’s really cool about Mrs. Harris’ writing program is that Noah’s a little shy on camera.” Dealy continues “a lot of kids are math kids or science kids, and they don’t think they have a voice. They don’t think they can write. And she has really empowered them to use their writing to get their opinions out.”

Carolyn Harris has read and heard a lot of her students’ opinions in her 28 years in education.
So, how much of a challenge has it been during a pandemic that forced her to stand in front of a TV instead of 20 rambunctious children?

“It really hasn’t. I mean, I think I’m always thinking about what I can do, different, thinking about different ways to get the kids excited.”

Children get excited about winning awards and Harris gave them that chance when entering their work in WHRO Public Broadcasting Writer’s Contest recently. One of her students won. And Harris believes she has a future winner in Noah.

“She takes notice of things and she provides support,” says Tetie Sessoms, Noah’s mothjer. “She does it out of love and kindness.”

Ms. Sessoms says Noah has had his challenges this year, learning from home. But, she’s thankful he gives his all for Ms. Harris, and vice versa.
“When they (students) leave Ms. Harris, Ms. Harris has them  right.”