FORT DEFIANCE — At the end of each semester, Spanish teacher Megan Shifflett makes a video of her students at Fort Defiance High School.
Each video has a theme and a song is recorded in English about a Spanish grammar topic with which her students are struggling.
“And this is the first year in nine years that I won’t make [a class video],” said Shifflett, who lives in Verona.
Shifflett said that first video “was just so much fun so we’ve done one ever since, and the kids have so much fun.”
For the last video, in the fall, Shifflett said her students wore pink because the song in the video was by Pink.
Shifflett said after school ended abruptly March 13 with Gov. Ralph Northam’s order for public and private schools to close for two weeks amidst the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, she was texting with choral teacher Melissa Dull and Jeff Farthing, a guidance counselor and musical director, about how sad teachers were that they did not get to say goodbye to their students.
“So we left them and all of a sudden we weren’t going to see them anymore, and it was sad,” Shifflett said of Northam’s second order on March 23 for all Virginians to stay at home and that schools would be closed for the remainder of the academic year.
That is when Shifflett got the idea to compile a video of Fort Defiance High teachers and staff.
She wrote alternate lyrics to Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” the same day.
She emailed Fort Defiance teachers and staff a copy of the lyrics she wrote and sample videos.
Shifflett received a variety of videos from 11 teachers and staff members, as well as their children at home with them during quarantine.
Shifflett said she chose the song because of the 1983 film “Risky Business.” In a now infamous scene in the film, actor Tom Cruise is at home and dances to “Old Time Rock n’ Roll” in his underwear.
“I made it clear in the email that everyone should have on pants,” Shifflett said.
In the video, Shifflett has curly hair and wears a white shirt.
Videos were submitted via Google Drive, Shifflett edited them together and posted the complete video to Facebook and YouTube on April 11.
“I hope that it got out to the kids, because that was the purpose,” Shifflett said.
Janice Converse lives in Mount Sidney and is a special education teacher at Fort Defiance High. She has taught at the high school since 1989.
Converse can be seen in the video sitting on the sofa with her husband and grandson.
“I immediately jumped on it,” said Converse of participating in the video.
She said the project sounded fun.
“Plus, I think the kids need to see we’re staying at home,” she said.
The video was a fun way of teaching students the importance of staying home during quarantine.
Converse said she was hoping Fort Defiance students would see the video and understand “that you can make a good thing out of something sad.”
“I really, really miss having face-to-face contact with my students,” Converse said.
Teaching her students remotely online is not the same.
“Because part of what we do as teachers is us,” Converse said.
Each teacher brings her own style to a classroom, which gets lost in translation online.
Converse said her students have used computers in her classroom before, but she was with them and able to provide input.
“But it’s not that one-on-one instruction that you’re used to delivering,” Converse said of online teaching. “There’s something missing.”
A teacher for 14 years, Danielle Allen lives in Verona and teaches special education.
The 1987 Fort Defiance High graduate is wearing tiger leggings in the video.
“Of course, for me, it’s all about the kids,” she said of her participation in the video.
She said she knows right now is a stressful time, and she is unsure of how her special education students are interrupting what is going on.
“My thing is if I can make them laugh or giggle — that’s what it’s all about,” Allen said.
Allen said all teachers and staff are missing the students.
“This kind of helped hopefully make a connection with the community and with the kids,” Allen said of the video.
Melissa Dull is choir and drama teacher at Fort Defiance High. She has been at the school for eight years and lives in Fort Defiance.
“We just really care for our kids at Fort,” said Dull.
Dull said that teachers did not get to say goodbye to their students on March 13.
The video was a way of offering steps to be safe during the pandemic and the message to stay home.
Dull said that she and her fellow teachers and staff cannot wait to see their students again at Fort Defiance High.
“Our goal is just sort of to reach out and say: ‘We’re still thinking of you,’” Dull said of the video.
Dull said she was pleased that so many teachers and faculty members participated in the video, and she thinks that is a “testament” to Fort Defiance High.
“We just have really awesome kids, and I miss them a lot,” she said.