Westfield teacher continues Adopt-A-Classroom partnership during pandemic

Paper Mill Elementary School second grade teacher Kathleen Knapik takes notes while her students interview Mayor Donald F. Humason Jr. as part of the Adopt-A-Classroom partnership with The Westfield News. (HOPE E. TREMBLAY/THE WESTFIELD NEWS)

Innovative teachers are connecting with students electronically

WESTFIELD – Paper Mill Elementary School second grade teacher Kathleen Knapik, like most teachers, is finding unique ways to connect with her students during the coronavirus pandemic.

Trying to navigate this break in the school routine is difficult for staff, administration, and especially students and their families. Knapik is helping to ease the stress for her class and keep thing as “normal” as possible.

“As teachers, our primary goals right now are to stay connected with our students and to help support learning at home,” she said. “How we communicate and how we support learning may look different depending on the age of the students and the availability of home technology, but our commitment is the same across grades and across schools.  We miss our kids, we are committed to helping them feel safe and supported, and we want to help families enjoy learning and playing together at home.”

One way Knapik is forging ahead with a new way of educating her class is by continuing her Adopt-A-Classroom partnership with The Westfield News. Instead of in-person interviews and group brainstorming, students are being given opportunities to serve the important role of a first-person journalist during an historic moment. The first assignment was given to a few students who were asked to answer questions about what their days are like during the pandemic. They chronicled them in their own words and those stories appear in today’s newspaper.

Paper Mill Elementary School second grader Wyatt Colon proudly wearing the Manatee Underwater Jetpack he designed as a home project celebrating Manatee Appreciation Day. (THE WESTFIELD NEWS SUBMITTED PHOTO)

This week, Nolan, Mackenzie and Dustin are the featured student correspondents. They were reminded of lessons they have learned so far this year through the Adopt-A-Classroom partnership, including choosing the main topic and answering the “Who, What, When, Where, Why and How” questions. Knapik gave parents some prompts and ideas to help them organize their thoughts.

Knapik said she is not the only teacher thinking even more creatively than usual right now.

“Teachers from preschool to the high schools are developing innovative ways to connect with and support their students,” she said.

Knapik, whose class is known as “2K,” is doing a daily online “Morning Meeting” where she shares updates and suggestions and asks a “Question of the Day,” just like she would in school.  Students are encouraged to “reply all” to share with their classmates.

“One morning, I challenged students to create a home version of Paper Mill’s PBIS program which sets goals for positive behavior,” she said. “Students created a chart with our Panther Pride goals — Be Kind, Be Respectful, Be Safe, and Be Responsible – and identified things they can do to meet those goals at home.”

Knapik said many students wrote goals related to listening to parents, helping with chores, playing nicely with brothers and sisters, and learning every day.  They all emphasized that they could meet their “Be Safe” goal by washing their hands regularly and staying home for now. Children can earn “Green Paws” for meeting their goals, and then they can cash them in for fun reward activities at home.

“Another day, students shared movie recommendations for a family movie night.  Several of our young movie critics suggested ‘Home Alone,’ which seems to be an appropriate choice for our times. Other movie picks included ‘Stewart Little,’ ‘Jumanji,’ ‘Wreck It Ralph,’ and the ‘Narnia’ series,” Knapik said.

In addition, students have been sharing some interesting websites. Second graders are working on iready reading, iready math, and ST Math like they do in school, and they’re also discovering websites such as, Virtual Field Trips, and Lunch Doodles with Mo Willems.

One student, Ben McEwan, recommended what Knapik called “a fascinating website called which features livecams focused on nature and animals in their natural habitats.  Ben is especially interested in learning about the Northern Lights.”

Another day, students shared their favorite jokes and riddles.

“No one loves a good knock-knock joke like a second grader,” Knapik said.

Knapik also urged all parents to help their children by becoming familiar with the School Closure Plan created by Westfield Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski and his team, which includes important information and interesting resources for students and families. Parents should regularly check the Westfield Public Schools website and Facebook page for updates on school-related information.

The Westfield News will continue to engage with Knapik’s class through the coronavirus school closure.




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