Her set up is pretty basic: Two MacBook pros, one with her camera and sound on where she is looking at faces, one for doing email and looking at students’ work. She has Xfinity home network and a private office with a window view of birds in her garden.
Her work day is a mixture of joys and stresses.
She was briefly an empty nester but now her son is back from Western Washington University and studying at Portland Community College and working part time. Her niece moved to Portland for a few months rather than live in a one bedroom in Queens with her folks. The niece is studying online to be a special education teacher. Her husband is a forester so he is often out during the day.
This year the LHS Yearbook doesn’t have an editor so nine students formed a leadership pod instead. Rechner said kids are not as experienced leading a virtual group, so she is providing more structure in student led classes (like yearbook and newspaper) than usual.
“(Before COVID) as a teacher you walked around, you can see how much someone’s written on their page. But there's no way for me to know."
Students have asked for larger assignments, because managing dozens of little online assignments is a huge organizational task.
Like all teachers her time spent with students in “live” classes has been reduced dramatically. “I feel like I'm just grading all the time now because there's so many assignments.”
Without books and handouts, just getting the right resources to students has become time consuming. “You’re really trying to refigure your lessons so that everything is accessible. You can't do really anything on the fly. You have to plan everything. You also have to make sure students that can't come to that particular class can access all the pieces about that moment.”
One glitch was that when students sent in a draft of a personal essay or a profile, editing it in Canvas turned out to be confusing. So Rechner switched back to editing on shared Google Docs.
“I'm always trying to figure out what's the most streamlined way, so they're not going to, like, 40 different spaces,” she says.
“These are all great work skills. But it's confusing.”
With breakout rooms, Rechner has learned to give the kids very specific tasks and deliverables.
“If you don't give them an outcome to come up with no one will talk to each other. They'll just sit there in silence.”
“With the time that we have I try to make it so we still have fun, and make people want to continue on with their learning. I probably have more students who have anxiety issues right now than I ever have.”
Rechner can see in Canvas what time kids logged in but she doesn’t really track what hours they keep.
“At first they were saying ‘It’s great, I’m getting more sleep.’ One thing I’m hearing now is, when anyone asks a student how they’re doing, the first thing they say is ‘I’m tired all the time.’”
At home it’s just screens and alternative screens. She thinks it’s far easier for students to concentrate in class when the teacher is walking around and phones are mostly put away.
“As a teacher, I'm multitasking more. I have Remind on my phone, students are texting me with that and I'm texting them. I'm using email. They're using email. Oh, and we also have Canvas that we're using to communicate with each other. Some students get right into the groove of it, and they're able to prioritize. But I think some kids get this avalanche feeling. Because you ask them, did you get that email from me? And they’re like….?”
It’s also hard to know how much support each student is getting and how much stress they're feeling at home.
“Most of my students are feeling confident enough to put their cameras on. I have gotten emails from parents saying that some of our students are just really anxious about online school. For myself, before I teach a class online, there is just something about it that's slightly unsettling. The moment where you're about to log on...”
Technology fails can also be stressful. Rechner recalls being about to text the Lincoln Tech guru Vice Principal Chris Brida in a panic as her WiFi went down 10 minutes before a class. Luckily, she was able to get it up and running and start on time.
So far it has been a lot harder and taken longer to get to know her new students which initially made knowing how to group them difficult. Teaching online sometimes feels like an emotional loss to Rechner.
“I don't have pets and the kids really enjoy seeing people's cats, and when little kids come on and stuff like that. I don't have anything fun like that!”
Rechner wants to remind all LHS kids that even if there were in-person school, it would still be tough to make friends and keep them. She recommends joining a club or affinity group, which are still happening, online.
Her tips for surviving the alienation of online school is to take breaks and reach out.
“It's just important to me to take a break and take a walk for 15 minutes in the middle of the day. At school I could walk around the block. Try to get some fresh air during the day, and have a little conversation with someone. I'll maybe have a phone call with one of my teacher friends, I try to do that a couple times a week. You don't realize how much your life is enriched by casual conversations. It's something that we're just missing.”
She also misses the humor of the live classroom.
“There are a lot of little things that happen in your class are kind of fun and funny. So, I say hi to all the kids and I say goodbye to all of them when they leave, and I thank them. And they thank me. It's similar in that way, but it's also hard to joke around online. Humor hasn't really translated. You know, maybe that'll happen.”
FoL funds teachers allowing Lincoln to retain excellent staff threatened by budget cuts and maintain a diverse and rich curriculum including Culinary Arts and a Writing Center Tutor.
Principal Chapman must immediately hire three teachers in Math, Science, and Technology before the end of May. That is when the best candidates have usually been snapped up.
We need to maintain our great programs such as International Baccalaureate (IB), Career and Technical Education (CTE) and the Arts. Think of the class that inspires your child: that's the one we need to preserve.
Please give what you can. Some cannot give that, and others can give a lot more.
In the coming weeks, we will be telling you more about Lincoln's great classes, teachers, and the new building opening in 2022.
Thank you all.
Lincoln currently offers 39 STEM options, see the course guide.
Senior Stella Harkness is able to take Probability and Statistics, IB Biology HL and IB Physics HL. She also takes Robotics because, as she says, “It prepares you for multiple environments within the engineering scope and it teaches kids to act collaboratively.” Harkness worked on the robots which were on the runway at the FLOCK fashion-themed party in February. She likes that her robotics cohort competes in teams of four but they also learn cooperation, which is the hottest skill in the job market right now. “It isn't really a teaching class, it's more exploration and the teachers back us. It’s research, trial and error.”
The robots use sensors to move around 18-feet by 18-feet flat field. They have to be less than 18 x 18 x 18 inches, and be able to stack Lego blocks.
“The first lessons you learn are where the center of gravity is, whether to have more torque in your motor, and how to use color sensors.”
Harkness was speaking by phone from a visit to Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. She wants to study bioengineering and political science, since she is also on the Constitution team. She also played forward in soccer for three years. She’s co-founder the Current Events club where members talk about current events that are not being discussed enough, such as leadership changes in Egypt and Venezuela or the religious riots in India. “Things like that that kids don’t want to talk about because there's so much happening on the domestic level that people don't really focus on the global scale.”
Right now, engineering is her passion. They work in Lincoln’s basement Classroom 11, which is “really like a large closet behind the kitchen,” says Harkness. Lincoln recruits from middle schools. There are Freshmen in the Robotics team, and they will get at least one year of the new building, their Senior year.
Teacher cuts for 2020-2021 were made through attrition, which means larger class sizes in math and science — and students could lose the ability to "double up" or take more than one science or math at a time. Friends of Lincoln must raise dollars so Principal Chapman can immediately hire three teachers in Math, Science, and Technology before the end of May. Please give what you can.
Gabe Briare, a Junior, is in the Jazz Ensemble class taught by Mr. Cave. Students play all sorts of jazz, from swing and bebop. They learn composition, use some sheet music and chord charts but also improvise.
They play as a large group at basketball games, but they also break into quartets and trios for class time.
Briare’s combo sat down to make a new 30-second jingle. They have an electric bass guitar, electric guitar, electric keyboard and drums.
“It was only used for one day before school was shut in March by the Coronavirus pandemic,” said Briare ruefully.
The result is impactful, and far from institutional. Sudden stabs of drums and keys are followed by jangly guitar and funky bass, and then a three-word chorus, “What’s up Lincoln!” It took two periods to write. They started in class and recorded it at night.
Briare’s fave jazz guitarist is Wes Montgomery, but he also likes jazz funk band Vulfpeck. He says Jazz Ensemble is the type of class where the teacher encourages them to experiment and create.
The combo consists of Gabe Rosenfield drums, Elliot Ricsh keyboard, Carson Nitta bass, Gabe Briare guitar.
During the break Briare has been in a group chat with his combo. “We like to cover songs, and we have a few of our own, so we exchange clips. Someone will put together a lick or a riff and say what key it’s in, and we’ll try and add a piano melody or a drum beat. Next time we’re all together we'll play them.”
They can’t jam in real time over video conferencing because of the internet’s lagginess.
Briare has been using music to get through the Coronavirus isolation of the March from hell. His parents have made sure he hasn’t seen his friends in person since the Governor’s stay home, stay healthy directive went out.
“I’ve been playing a lot more guitar recently. You can’t just sit around.”
Lincoln has lots of great classes that are threatened by a shortfall in funding. That’s why we are asking parents who can to donate to the foundation to keep such classes going for another year. Click HERE to go to our pain-free giving site.
If you can give to the foundation to nurture the next generation of Django Rheinhardts and Chet Bakers, you’ll have changed the world for good.
Culinary Arts is one of the gems of the Lincoln curriculum. It has inspired hundreds of Cards to not just feed themselves and their friends but to catch the foodie wave that put Portland on the map during the 2008 recession. International Baccalaureate (IB), Career and Technical Education (CTE) and the Arts are the kinds of classes that make Lincoln unique and we must protect them by raising funds.
For some, Culinary Arts has been a supplement to IB science classes, a hobby during the long days of quarantine, and a way to bond with the family.
From her sophomore year onwards, Lincoln Senior Grace Alleman took classes in World Cuisine and Advanced Baking and Pastry. In her senior year she did even more culinary arts in independent study.
Alleman is planning on studying food science in college, choosing between the University of California at Davis, Purdue University in Indiana and Oregon State University.
OSU would be the most economical choice, and she likes what she has seen, having taken a couple of classes at OSU's campus in Portland in the old Meyer & Frank building. Lincoln gave her a great grounding.
"In world cuisine, we were cooking a lot of stuff that I've never cooked before. I really liked our Mediterranean units. I actually just recently made salak paneer, a Moroccan spinach sauce with cheese.
For finals they would have Chopped Challenges, where they were given ingredients and had to improvise a dish.
She also learned a lot of basic pastry techniques, making scones, biscuits and cakes. They studied mass production, which helped in making batches of cookies and scones sold on the coffee cart for teachers, which raised funds for ingredients for the classes.
"Somebody did the coffee cart years ago, but it closed for some reason. We reopened it two years ago. We'd have espresso drinks and chocolate chip cookies and snickerdoodles. They were from Miss Hammer's recipe from the Oregon Culinary Institute where she worked before."
Her favorite cake to make is Miss Hammer's chocolate cake. She made four-inch versions with Italian meringue buttercream frosting for teachers on their birthdays. "Which was kind of disappointing because we didn't get everyone," she added, referring to the sudden end to the in-school year.
Emma Zumbo, Rebekah McLean and Grace delivering pies to Oregon Culinary Institute for their Thanksgiving meal for the homeless.
"Italian meringue is more stable and easier to work with than an American buttercream, which is the only buttercream that doesn't have meringue in it. It's the most simple. There's Italian meringue, Swiss meringue, French buttercream actually uses the yolk…"
The district pays a certain amount per year for ingredients. The students don't have to pay anything. Miss Hammer does the shopping.
"A lot of people donate equipment too if they have old stuff at their house."
A bachelor's degree in Food Science would lead to a job as a food scientist. "There's a lot of food science openings that large production companies, places like Kraft. Something that really interested me at OSU was cheese making. You get to make your own cheese, and also there are a couple courses on wine and fermentation."
Grace is taking three Standard Level IB science classes.
At home she says she always liked being in the kitchen. Her mother is a very good cook, and cooks international cuisine. "But I just remember my mom would never let me be in the kitchen. My mom is kind of protective of her kitchen. Her parents owned a Japanese restaurant. I took this class as an opportunity to work on my skills, and as I got better my parents realized I could actually cook more meals at home too."
She has one younger brother. "Oh, he eats my food, even if he always says it's bad."
Her dad works at Intel. "My mom and I cook a lot. My mom has collected recipes, and they're somewhat organized. We have a giant binder. My brother has been learning to cook for himself because he gets hungry a lot. You know, he'll boil enough pasta for one person."
Grace and her mother have also been donating sack lunches to Blanchet House. The family lives in Forest Heights so there's been no sneaking out to see friends. She watches college webinars and goes for a run every day.
"My mom has us on lockdown. Being home without school, it's been boring, but Chef Hammer has been sending out recipes. Basically, our ongoing project during this quarantine is just to cook some meals and send in pictures." You can follow @lincolnculinary to see their work.
They're encouraged to make dinner for their families while working on skills from class. "If I chop up a bunch of vegetables, I'll take photos to show my method and send them in."
Because it's hard to control who has what ingredients at home, instruction is difficult. The teacher has been using Google Meet to check in with the students rather than for cooking instruction. It's more efficient to refer kids to online videos like, "There's this one called How to Make a Sandwich." Check out Chef Hammer's YouTube channel about making bread.
"It's hard but I think a lot of people are finding ways to make things with what they have. It's kind of been fun seeing what everyone's been making. Someone made a wedding cake."
Making a cake is a skill that never gets old. Grace's favorite cookbook is from Milk Bar, a bakery she visited in New York City in 2018.
"There are three people in my house right now who have had or will have birthdays during this quarantine time, so I'm making birthday cakes for all of them. It's fun, especially since I have the time. Cooking is really a great way of passing the time."
Did she get all her stuff out of her locker on the last day of school, March 13th?
"No. I'm really hoping there's no food in there."
Grace was interviewed by phone at her home on April 10, 2020. After a successful job shadow last year she has been offered a job at Dream Cakes Portland @dreamcakespdx which has been nominated best wedding cakes in Oregon for three years in a row, as soon as the Coronavirus quarantine is lifted.