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Virginia Beach dance teacher connects with students virtually amid COVID-19 outbreak

Virginia has closed schools for the rest of the year due to coronavirus concerns. But for Ericka Ricks’ classes, that doesn’t mean the learning stops.

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — Virginia schools are closed for the rest of the academic year to help stop the spread of COVID-19. It’s a challenging time for many students and parents, but also working to adjust to the new normal are teachers.

“I'm extremely close with all of my students and our relationship means the world to me... They’re the reason why I do what I do,” says Ericka Ricks, Director of Dance at Cape Henry Collegiate. 

It’s one of the schools that has gone virtual with classes. 

“Our Head of the School Dr. Chris Garran and our entire administrative staff have been so amazing and so passionate, and they have really helped us to stay motivated and helping us stay positive and on track,” says Ricks. “They have really wanted us to emphasize the value of the kids staying connected and to have some type of normalcy in their lives.” 

The virtual instruction is a change of pace for teachers like Ricks, but she says the structure is working well for her students. It’s also allowed her to get every more creative with her lesson plans. 

“As a dance teacher, I really want them to stay in tune with their creativity,” says Ricks. “I've been trying to assign things like choreography workshops so that the older dancers can perform for each other on Zoom. And then, for the little kids, I've been trying to do, like, stretch classes... and just giving them little things like coloring books for dancers. And then, we're also gonna start doing some storytelling yoga!”

At the end of each virtual class, Ricks leaves time to chat with her students about they feel. She says it’s important to help alleviate their anxiety during this uncertain time. 

“They've really tried to explain to me how they're feeling, and I try to just be a listening ear because I know a kid doesn't always like to talk to their parent,” says Ricks. “We're just trying to provide them with as much opportunity to be able to talk to us one-on-one or even in a group setting.”

Ricks says this is a chance for teachers to model adaptability and healthy responses to stress for their students. While they may be physically distant, they can remain emotionally connected. 

“As long as we stay calm... they might ask us questions and we might not know the answer to it. We can say, 'I don't know,'” says Ricks. “But as long as we're together and we're trying to figure this thing out, at the end of the day, the show has to go on.”

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