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Tumwater teachers make house calls on first days of school

Hundreds of parents welcomed teachers for front porch visits in the district south of Olympia.

TUMWATER, Wash. — While 2020 may not allow for students to start the year with in-person instruction, teachers from Tumwater found a way to meet their students face-to-face.

Families of 400 students from Tumwater’s Michael T. Simmons Elementary got front porch visits from teachers during the opening days of the online-only school year.

“This is dire for us, we have to make those connections,” said fifth-grade teacher Elisabeth Davidson.

She and Erin Gehrke are co-teaching the fifth-grade class for students designated as “highly capable.”

But students from all of the school's classes got home visits.

Davidson and Gehrke said meeting students, even at a distance, and while wearing face masks, was the best way to establish a good relationship with the families.

"There are opportunities here, even in a distance learning model, to make sure you're saying, 'I care about you and want to be a presence in your child's life,'" Gehrke said.

Bryce Winkelman, father to 10-year-old fifth-grader Claire Winkelman, said meeting his daughter's teachers in person calmed some of his concerns heading into the school year.

"It kind of helps solidify they've got a plan and they're thinking about all aspects of the education, including the social/emotional aspect for the kids,” Winkelman said.