Hero of the Day: Long Island principal keeps students connected

Dr. Ivelisse Hernandez is a first year principal at Lido Elementary School and had the tough job of moving nearly 600 students online after just a few months on the job.

But even as the coronavirus pandemic raged on, and struck one of her own family members, she managed to keep her school connected and her students supported during the worst crisis of their young lives.

“This is my passion. This is something I’ve always loved to do,” Hernandez, 42, told The Post.

“Every community that I’ve worked in, I’ve always had this inner drive to just give them my all.”

Back on Friday, March 13, Hernandez knew there was a possibility they weren’t going to come back to school that Monday, so she immediately got to work distributing instructional packets to get her teachers through the next two weeks.

“At first I said, ‘Okay, this is possible,’ you know, we can definitely still stay connected with the students, reach out to families, we’ll send them emails,” Hernandez said.

But the two weeks quickly passed and the pandemic was only getting worse, so Hernandez started coming up with programs to help the students feel connected.

“We decided to do a virtual spirit week where the students got to dress up, not in their pajamas because we were seeing them in their pajamas every day already, but more like dressing up, wearing their Lido gear, wearing tie dye,” the educator said.

“Then we ended the week with a virtual dance party. … Our families joined us, we played approximately an hour of music, and we danced, we laughed, the students had an opportunity to say hello to their friends.”

Hernandez also put together lip sync videos with encouraging messages from teachers and administrators that were sent around to students and has been hosting a nightly book reading on Zoom.

“We also wanted to provide our students with some form of normalcy. So one of the things that we did is we implemented morning announcements. Every morning we say our morning announcements at Lido, we do our Lido pledge, we say the Pledge of Allegiance. We give birthday shout outs, we give a morning message, and we let them know any special events that are happening for the day,” Hernandez said.

“It’s a way to still keep some of the same activities that we had in our school, but just doing it in a different way.”

Even as families try to shelter their kids from the pandemic’s harsh realities, older students definitely know that something is wrong, Hernandez said.

“We haven’t been in school for a long period of time, and they were not supposed to be off this long. So they start to worry,” Hernandez, who has two teen daughters of her own, explained.

“The reason we keep the connection is to help them with their anxieties and concerns that they have and making sure that they know that you’re not alone. Like, the other students in your class are going through the same thing that you’re going through. They are feeling the same anxieties and concerns that you’re going through and we’re all going to be okay.”

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