DuBOIS — Juniata Elementary School teacher Elisha Burns’ online learning lesson for her fourth-graders also served as an act of kindness recently.

Burns’ English Language Arts class, which covers the fourth-grade Pennsylvania writing standards of writing for difference audiences and purposes, said Burns, also served as a way to teach students to look for ways they can make a difference.

Burns said she started the online lesson with a video from Mister Rogers and in the video Mister Rogers talks about when there are scary things happening in the news, his mother always told him to look for “the helpers.” Burns discussed with her class that this could be a scary time for many people and what could they could do to help out.

“We came up with writing letters to residents in the nursing home because the community is protecting our elderly by not going in to visit them. They may be getting lonely and miss seeing others, or maybe just in need of a friendly hello,” said Burns.

Through sharing her screen online with her students, Burns said she showed them how to write a friendly letter. Each paragraph had prompts where the students could talk about things such as how long they have been at home, what they are doing to pass the time, how online learning is going, and what they miss about their regular schedules. They ended their letters by telling the residents to stay positive and know that they are in the students’ thoughts.

Burns said she sent the letters to Christ the King Manor, DuBois Nursing Home, Highland View Health Care, Laurelbrook Landing and Jefferson Manor.

“When students emailed me their letters, I put them on one big document so when the nursing homes received them by email, they just had to print them and hand them out to their residents,” said Burns.

“All of the nursing homes were just so happy that I called to ask if they would be willing to receive the letters,” said Burns. “The residents really enjoyed them.”

Anne Bruno, administrator at Highland View Health Care in Brockway, wrote a note to Burns thanking the students for their letters on behalf of the residents.

“I can’t tell you what a thoughtful gesture it was for you to have your students write letters to our residents,” said Bruno. “I started to cry when I began reading them as they are so insightful and very sincere.”

“These are beautiful and we are going to share them today,” said Kim McMonagle of Christ the King Manor. “I know there is effort getting something like this together and we so much appreciate the time and creativity.”

In one letter, a boy named Luke wrote that he hopes the letters remind the residents that the students are thinking about them.

“I hope that you are enjoying the activities at the nursing home,” said Luke, adding that he hopes the residents stay positive. “Remember, we will stop the pandemic as a team.”

Another student, Ellie, wrote, “I know you haven’t been able to have many visitors just like me because of the COVID 19 restrictions. I am in fourth grade and it’s my last year of elementary school. I can’t even go back to school and finish out my last year there. It really makes me sad, especially since I won’t be able to tell my teachers or friends goodbye.”

Burns said it was a meaningful lesson that she hopes inspires the children to look for ways that they can make a difference in someone’s life.

“Throughout their years at Juniata we have always worked hard to instill how to be kind, help others in need and spread positivity,” said Burns. “We knew that the residents would be happy to receive a hello, and as you read down through the student letters, you can see how sincere they were when writing them.”

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