Teachers, e-learning, and Zoom Helped Seniors Cope

The graphic shows two recent high school graduates discussing e-learning, graduation, and college.

Abby Fehrenbaker and Michelle Singer are recent graduates of Scarsdale High School. Abby will be attending Lafayette College virtually from home this coming fall. Michelle Singer will be attending Tulane University in-person this semester. 

Thank you, Abby and Michelle, for sharing your experiences over the past several months. This time has been extraordinarily difficult for the Class of 2020. We know your resilience will serve you well in the years to come. We wish you the best of luck in college!

Since their days as freshmen at Scarsdale High School, Abby and Michelle dreamed about their senior year, especially second semester. They hoped the final months of senior year would be just like the ones that came before them. They looked forward to graduation parties, prom, yearbook signings, and Senior Options, a program which allows all seniors to attend an internship instead of school throughout May and June. Unfortunately, come March, it was clear these traditions would not continue in their typical form for the Class of 2020. 

e-learning was tough in the beginning

The early days of e-learning were really difficult, because it was unlike anything either of the girls had done before. Abby notes, “it was harder to learn, especially in math and science, because those are more hands-on.” Michelle adds, “With math, it was really hard to take notes and follow along on Zoom.” Fortunately, their grades no longer counted towards their GPAs, and both were already admitted to college, so they “didn’t really stress out about struggling in class.” Despite the struggle of e-learning for certain subjects, Michelle says it was “easy to meet with teachers over Zoom and we could email them whenever.” Abby adds, “Teachers were more understanding, because we were all going through this together for the first time. We weren’t in this alone.”

The girls also struggled with the transition to being home all day. “Going from the everyday routine and not being able to leave the house at all and being on a totally different schedule was a challenge.” While they had more free time and could sleep in past 7 a.m., losing “so many senior things we’ve been looking forward to really took a toll on our mental health,” Abby says. 

Teachers worked to make e-learning and seniors’ days happier

As the weeks of quarantine and e-learning went on, the teachers found ways to make the graduating class’ days better. Michelle recalls her Spanish teacher giving the class a heartfelt farewell speech on the last day of in-person classes. She also held a Zoom graduation for them during an online class. “She’s my favorite person ever,” she adds. Similarly, during one of their online lessons, Abby’s math teacher gave a presentation on what she liked about each person in the class. “She liked that I always got the answers right,” laughs Abby. 

Instead of Senior Options, Scarsdale High School introduced Passion Projects. The program enabled seniors to pursue a hobby or other interest during school hours for the remainder of the year. Abby helped plan virtual camp programs for Sunrise Day Camp, an organization close to her heart. Last summer, Abby worked as a counselor at Sunrise and loved her experience. All the campers either have cancer or a sibling fighting cancer and attend for free. Abby wanted to help make their virtual camp experience just as enriching as the in-person camp of summers past. Michelle pursued her passion for baking and turned her hobby into a more serious endeavor. She created her own healthy versions of classic baked goods like brownies, and her family loved them! She even made mock versions of famous desserts like Levain Cookies from NYC. 

The school held multiple small graduations and a car parade

When it came to other senior year traditions, Abby says, “The school knew we were upset, but they didn’t want to jeopardize their health or ours by having a prom or graduation.” Later, “when Governor Cuomo said schools could hold graduations for up to 150 people, the school reconsidered and held multiple small graduations and a car parade.” The car parade consisted of all faculty members waving and cheering in the school parking lot as the graduating seniors and their families drove by. Michelle says the ceremonies were “a lot better than I expected them to be. It really felt like we were being celebrated.” The Mayor of Scarsdale even officially named June 26th as the Scarsdale High School Class of 2020 Day. 

Socially, Michelle, Abby, and their friends had frequent “Zoom parties” and car meetups, where they would park in a circle and sit in their respective trunks facing each other. This time has “made me appreciate my friends a lot more and brought us closer,” says Michelle. Abby adds, “Things we used to think were so boring, like just sitting around, are now things we realized we really took for granted. This time put things in perspective for us.” “Even those little moments are so much more fun now because we were quarantined,” Michelle replies. 

The graduates look forward to a different kind of freshman year

Looking towards college life, Michelle is “excited to go to New Orleans and be there, but at the same time I know it’s going to be a totally different experience from what I want it to be or what it would have been.” She adds, “I have a feeling we won’t be there for long. I can’t go to other people’s dorms and most of my classes are already online.” In Abby’s case, her school is going completely virtual and not allowing the students to be on campus. “Lafayette believes it’s the best situation for everyone. Even if freshmen were on campus it wouldn’t be a true start to college, so they’d rather just postpone it.” She is “really hoping we go back in the spring, but I don’t know. For now, it’s e-learning again, living at home with my parents and my dogs.”

Thank you for speaking with us, Abby and Michelle. The beginning of your college experiences aren’t what you expected but we know you will do well in any situation.