Before the COVID-19 pandemic shut schools down, Karen Aponte-Velez served students from kindergarten through fifth grade as a media teacher and school librarian.
She connected students at the Children’s Aid College Prep Charter School with books and other research tools to do their work. Now, Karen’s work has shifted to shepherding parents through the sometimes arduous process of remote learning.
“We have a few parents, especially in kindergarten, that don’t speak English at all so the first week of remote learning I was calling them just to ask how everything is going,” she said.
Karen has become a critical resource for families and for teachers who rely on her to translate important information. She will often set up four to five Zoom calls a day to walk parents through navigating online learning tools and jumps on three-way calls with other teachers to assist with translating from Spanish to English.
“This is something I’m really proud of because I’m coming from that,” she said. “My parents, when we came here, they didn’t speak English. I didn’t speak English so I know how it feels. It’s good to have a person there to support you.”
During the first few weeks of remote learning, Karen has helped parents with simple tasks like how to connect to Wi-Fi or click on a link. Starting next week, she and librarians from the New York Public Library will offer story time to kindergarten and first grade students.
She has continued to encourage families to apply for library cards online and use resources like e-books to keep reading at home through this pandemic.
Before schools shut down, Karen did not get much one-on-one face time with parents. But this situation has taught her that her skills can be used outside of the library.
“Now I know there are some parents that have a hard time doing homework or understanding what’s happening,” Karen said. “I’m not assuming that they’re fine, that they know everything. I’m getting closer to our families.”