By Tom Tolen /

Two employees of Brighton Area Schools have been recognized for their efforts during a COVID-19 incident that left an entire kindergarten class at Spencer Elementary School in quarantine, including their regular classroom teacher.

Kris Valade and Cody Alexander - who filled in on a moment’s notice — were chosen as “Shining Stars” by the Brighton Area Schools’ Board of Education at its meeting last week. According to Spencer Principal Bill Renner, the class — one of four kindergarten classes and a junior “K” class at the school — was placed in quarantine last November when there were a couple of positive tests for the coronavirus. That left the class and its principal quarantined in their homes for two days. Kris Valade is a teacher in the Brighton Virtual Academy program and Alexander is a district literacy coach. Since Renner knew both teachers from previous school assignments, he “reached out to them,” asking them if they could fill in. Without hesitation, Valade and Alexander accepted the challenge.

Valade and Alexander worked together to troubleshoot and solve any technology challenges and, according to Renner, “made sure there was plenty of time for connecting on a human level with the students.” Valade, who plays guitar and sings in her free time, connected with the class online each day with a greeting period which included a “warm-up” song performed by Valade, who accompanied herself on guitar. Valade also made it a point to memorize the names of all the students and recognized those who had birthdays. After that, Alexander gave the kindergarten students lessons in the core subject material of math, reading, and writing — plus storytime — for the remainder of the day. She also connected with parents to get feedback in order to make any suggested adjustments.

Renner, who nominated Valade and Alexander for the Shining Star award, thanked them for their “dedication in helping the Spencer students and families work through a challenging time and removing roadblocks to ensure their learning continued,” without interruption. They will each receive a certificate from the Board of Education for their willingness to go the extra mile on behalf of the students and school.