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Moorestown teacher Adam Roth’s first few Zoom calls with his class didn’t go exactly as planned.

“One of my students said, ‘Get out of my house,’” says Roth, Moorestown’s coordinator of Structured Learning Experience for teens with special needs. “Another doesn’t want to be seen, but he’s happy to chat with the video off. And one asks every day when we’re having our next school trip and when he can go back to his job stocking the freezer at ShopRite.”

Needless to say, the move to online lessons has drastically changed education for every student and teacher under stay-at-home orders. For Roth’s students, all 18- to 21-year-olds preparing for the work world, the loss of face-to-face time isn’t the hardest part.

Their jobs at Moorestown and Delran businesses were their classrooms. They stocked shelves, prepped food, did clerical work among other tasks businesses needed. And they were really in the swing of their jobs, gaining skills and confidence, when everything changed. While most teachers can adapt their curriculum to online learning, Roth and his team practically started from scratch.

Besides daily Zoom calls, he reaches his students and parents whatever way works: by text, FaceTime, Google Classroom and phone calls. Among fun stay-at-home lessons, they’re doing dress-for-success theme days (to remember what to wear for job interviews). Guests join the Zoom meetings to discuss their jobs for “Wordly Webcast Wednesdays.”

“When we had a truck driver whose route includes Wawa, the kids who work at Wawa were so excited to talk to him,” says Roth, noting other guests include an owner of a local salon, a lawyer and Moorestown Mayor Nicole Gillespie.

Before Spring Break, Roth and his crew left the students with a lasting memory: a car-caravan parade that stopped outside every student’s house.

“It took 2 hours and I’m pretty sure we woke up all of their neighborhoods,” he says. “We made personalized posters for every kid. It was just good to see each other face to face, even at a distance.”

May 2020
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