By Hania Raza
Covid-19 has brought many changes to the daily lives of students and teachers at North Cross School. This is the first time that North Cross’s daily activities have changed so drastically. Many students are choosing distance learning to avoid the risk of exposure to a possible asymptomatic carrier.
Distance learning brings many challenges to students and teachers alike. When asked about the difficulties faced in online learning, Aashee Nanda ‘24, a distance learner in the United States, says that it is harder for them to ask questions during class. “In normal school, it’s easier to ask questions,” Nanda said, “especially if you’re taking a test.”
International distance learning students have adapted to more drastic changes. Instead of being able to participate in live classes, some choose to watch recorded zooms sessions because of the time difference. It is harder for them to ask questions, do assignments, and contact their teachers. International student Tammie Le ‘21 says that asking questions on Zoom can be difficult. “With in-person learning, I can easily ask my teacher any question at any time,” Le said. “And when I need to ask some private questions or problems, I just need to stay after class to tell them, unlike on Zoom, my voice will come out very loud from the big tv, and everyone can hear it.”
Likewise, it can be aggravating when students cannot figure out how to do an assignment, or when they cannot hear teachers clearly. International student Kevin Dinh ‘21 expressed that sometimes he cannot hear clearly during zoom classes. “It's kind of frustrating when I could hear next to nothing the teachers were saying due to technical difficulties,” Dinh said, “I had to ask them to basically type the entire lesson out.”
Another problem facing international students is that they do not live in the same time zones, which makes it even harder for them to zoom with teachers or talk to other classmates. When asked about the effect of time zones on learning, Dinh expressed that the Time Zone difference is a big problem for him. “Time Zones is one of the biggest issues I had to deal with,” Dinh said. “Ever since I got back to Vietnam and started online classes. I'm required to stay up from 7:30 pm up until 2:00 am of the next day.”
On top of that, it can be harder to concentrate in class if you are not in the classroom. “I personally like taking in-person classes more,” Le said, “because from there I feel like I'm involved and can focus more easily, as we are all in the same classroom and are doing the same thing.
However, there are some advantages about distance learning as well. “Distance learning is easier because it is less stringent than school policies,” Dinh said, “[I am able to] do my schoolwork at a much more comfortable pace compared to normal school.” Learning online also means that students will be working more independently on class work. “Sometimes, on distance learning, teachers will let you out earlier so that you can do your work,” Nanda said, “You can do things a lot more independently.”
Teachers also have had to make changes to the way that they teach and had to learn how to communicate with their students online. For example, teachers must be able to assign work online using Google Classroom for the distance learners. High school English teacher Mr. Dickenson says that he has changed some of his lesson plans, so that students can maintain social distancing and everyone can participate. “If you had a handout, you could just hand it out to your students in class and give them a paper copy,” Mr. Dickenson said, “and so now that we have a number of distance learners, we have to remember to keep everything posted, so that they have access to everything that you are doing in class.”
Likewise, teachers also have had to learn more about Zoom, so online students can fully participate. They have to record their zoom call so that the international students can watch it later. “In most of my classes, I have maybe two or three distance learners, so my only thing is, because they are not in front of you, sometimes it is easy to forget to call on them because you are not just actually seeing them in the chairs in front of you,” Mr. Dickenson said, ”so I do have to regularly remind myself that they are part of the class just like every other student.”
Sometimes, they have to change their lesson plan to accommodate distance learners. “It’s really complicated to have people working in groups because we have to maintain social distance,” Dickenson said. “We are not able to do in the same way, but in my planning, I do try to make sure that whatever lesson you are providing will come off as well for the students who are distance-learning, as the students who are actually in the class because I want it to feel like an even experience, as much as possible, for everybody.”
Distance learning has posed its problems and difficulties. At the same time, it has opened new possibilities for learning and teaching.
By Chloe Hunt '21
Campus feels a little less bright without the one and only Mr. Robillard. The tea-loving, fanny pack-toting tour de force was present in all aspects of campus life.
Whether it be on the tennis court, in the classroom, or at Model United Nations in Boston, the journalism teacher, APUSH teacher, tennis coach, Global Studies Director, Model UN advisor, international trip leader, and Tea Club advisor has made an indelible impression on North Cross life.
Albeit that we have only been in school for a few weeks, students have noticed that he is missing on campus.
Olivia Murchison ‘21 took Mr. Robillard’s AP U.S. History class last year, and she has been a part of the Model UN Program since her sophomore year.
“Mr. Robillard always knew how to brighten my day, and I miss his energy on campus,” Murchison said. “He is important to so many of us and there is definitely a void without him.”
Student Mahum Hashmi ‘21 misses his presence as well.
“There is nobody like him,” Hashmi said. “All of us enjoy seeing him in the hallway. He can make anybody’s day better, and he encouraged me to really delve into history.”
Faculty members miss him as well. Susan Wenk, the Director of the Student Council Association, even planned a special video in his honor.
“If I had to choose two adjectives to describe Mr. Robillard,” Wenk said, “I would use positive and kind.”
Leigh Ann Hamlin, Interim Dean of Students, echoed this idea.
“It is safe to say that our campus is missing a few extra ounces of energy this school year. We miss seeing him walking down the hallway and listening to his stories about his grandiose ideas and adventures,” Hamlin said. “We are so grateful that he is okay and plans to return to our NCS community. We still have so much more to learn from him.”
When Mr. Robillard saw the video that the SCA created for him, featuring perspectives from students and teachers alike, he was brought to tears.
“Despite all that has happened lately, I rarely cry, but this brought out the tears of joy,” Robillard said. “That was some great medicine.”
The story of his accident involves a North Cross alumna, Reagan Robey Brown ‘11.
After getting a Bachelors in Nursing from the University of South Carolina, Brown worked at the RMH ED in the pediatrics and trauma departments. Now, she currently lives and works in Charlottesville at the University of Virginia Medical Center in pediatric oncology, and she is married to another North Cross graduate.
Brown happened to be in Roanoke for wedding preparations when she found Mr. Robillard.
“The day of the accident my mom, my husband, and I were on our way back home from buying a sofa for our new home when I saw a man laying in the road behind a dump truck with a bike near him,” Brown said. “I knew immediately something bad had happened and EMS was not there yet. So, I had my mom pull over and I jumped out.”
As Mr. Robillard said, Brown saved his life.
“As I, and a couple other people arriving at the scene, were assessing him I recognized him to be my teacher Mr Robillard from high school,” Brown said. “He was very injured but able to tell me that yes that was who he was.”
Thereafter, Brown helped calm Mr. Robillard.
“Many bystanders were trying to help in any way they could and also were very startled by what they were seeing, so I found my role to be more keeping both Mr Robillard and his surrounding area calm and safe until the medics arrived. I was able to reach out through a variety of NCS connections in order to attempt to reach his wife and try to let her know what had happened as soon as possible,” Brown said. “Since the accident, it has been amazing to see Robert's resilience, the Robillard family's strength, and the North Cross community's compassion.”
Thanks to Brown’s efforts, Mr. Robillard is recovering at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.
“[Brown] literally saved my life,” Robillard said. “There was this woman who was doing the wrong thing and could have killed me, but Reagan jumped into it and realized it was me, and she really, really helped me.”
The hospital provides world-renowned rehabilitation for spinal cord injuries, brain injuries, multiple sclerosis, and other neuromuscular problems.
Mr. Robillard said that the soonest he could be done is November 5, but the recovery process is not linear.
“I was in four weeks of intensive care at Carilion,” Robillard said. “I have been here for about five weeks, and then I will be here most likely deep into November.”
Robillard hopes that he will be done with basic rehabilitation by early November, but he said that the Shepherd Center also has apartments so that patients can adjust to independent living, where he may end up.
“I did not just break my spine in a couple different places,” Robillard said. “I broke my spine, my clavicle, scapula, fractured lots of ribs, and because of those breaks, I have no muscle. I am five weeks in the rehab, but I am basically at square one. I have no ability to do the things they want me to do, and when I try, I go into like a week long relapse of not being able to do a thing.”
Robillard said that rehabilitation is slow, but the thrill is making minor leaps, such as finally getting off the ventilator for example. As we say in Willis Hall, Robillard is making “incremental progress.”
Robillard said that Mr. Thompson, former Director of the Upper School, came to visit him in the hospital.
“I was certain he was going to do an ‘I told you so,’” Robillard said. “Every year, he would see me ride my bike to graduation, and he said that I was going to get into an accident and have to cancel graduation. To his credit, he never said ‘I told you so’ and was there for more in the hospital.”
Mr. Robillard has a long way to go before he is back on campus. When asked what he missed the most about teaching, he immediately responded.
“You guys,” Robillard said. “I miss seeing people’s faces, teaching of course, and being in Roanoke.”
While we wait for him to come back, please continue sending your thoughts, prayers, letters, and videos to the resilient Mr. Robillard.
By Chloe Hunt
The Willis Hall Herald recently conducted an anonymous survey filled with questions about the 2020 Presidential Race.
Approximately three-fifths of the student body completed parts of the survey, but not every student answered each question.
We found that all students eligible to vote in this year’s election are registered. Out of students who are able to vote, two-thirds support President Donald Trump whereas ⅓ support former Vice President Joe Biden.
Over 90% of the high school is not able to vote yet, but out of all of the students in the high school, 55% support Biden. 33% support Trump, and the remaining 12% showed varying results.
In the 12%, two-thirds of students said that they did not like either candidate. Students also said that they did not know yet, they were not interested in politics, or that they supported Kanye West in this group.
Four students said that they supported Biden because of his policies on climate change, and 10% of the Biden supporters stated that he would do a better job than Trump at protecting minorities.
15% of the Trump supporters stated the fact that Biden either has a stutter or “cannot form a sentence” in regards to why they would support Trump. 10% of the Trump supporters also suggested that Trump has been more helpful towards minorities.
Four students suggested that Biden was necessary to “preserve our democracy.” Seven students noted that Biden was not their first choice, but that he is a better candidate than Donald Trump in their opinions.
Three students said that Trump is a “fighter,” and four students said that he wants “law and order.” Six students said that Biden is “respectable,” and eight students said that he is a “good person.”
By Grace Simon '22
Covid-19 poses many hardships to Willis Hall’s athletes. The Virus’s impact has changed gameplay, spectator participation, team morale, and more.
Athletes at North Cross are starting to voice their opinions on the pandemic. “It's made everyone more on edge and annoyed because we always have to wear our masks when we warm up” Jessica Paliska 22’ said. “It's like there is a little wall between everyone because you have to wear a mask.” Another fellow athlete who has played football for a couple years at North Cross also voiced their opinion. “Covid has made football a little different this year. We have to be tested fairly often right after we have games, we have to split up in workout sessions because we can’t all be in the wight room at the same time. When we watch film we also have to social distance and wear a mask which is annoying” said Vedant Muse 22’.
More input was given as Chloe Hunt 21’ discloses information on her tennis season. “We only have two matches this year, and Reagan Karlen and I, captains of the team, at times struggle to keep everyone engaged. After all, there is not much incentive to make everyone try their best when you don’t have a big end goal.” Hunt said. “However, I think the tennis team is resilient. We are having a lot of fun, and Covid-19 gives us more time to work on our skills, especially doubles.”
The athletes are first handedly experiencing these difficulties, but regular students also are seeing changes. Ariana Cardwell ‘22 misses the exciting energy on campus in the fall.
“I really miss being able to hang out with everyone and dress up at the football games,” Cardwell said. “I think it does hurt the spirit of North Cross because we are like a family constantly supporting each other and it is hard to support if we can’t go to each other’s games.”
Mr. Dickenson, the cross country coach, looks more to the positives. “We have been more fortunate in that a number of the other private schools have continued with cross country this fall so we have a bit more competition” Dickenson said. “Since it is an outside activity, it is easier to keep everyone in a safe environment.”
Covid-19 has taken irreplaceable experiences away from the Willis Hall students, but optimism and creativity continue to sustain the school's population.
1) What was your impression after the first week of distance learning?
It's going okay. I think that everyone is trying their best to make distance learning work and make it feel like we are actually in school. Mrs. Angus, the distance learning coordinator, has been helping us a lot. She is organized (in terms of making personalized schedules for us to make it easier to access our classes on time, updating us on any changes that happen, etc.) and is very prompt about returning our emails whenever we have issues and listening to our feedback.
There have been a few problems and complications. The biggest problem so far is the volume. I can hear the teachers when they are speaking near the computer. But, occasionally, when the teacher starts walking away from the computer, I can not hear them clearly anymore. But, Mrs. Angus is ordering lapel mics for all the teachers to solve this problem. And while I can hear the teacher clearly, I cannot hear my classmates which is not a problem now but could be in the future if some classes decide to do a class discussion (because you do not want to repeat something that was already said or interrupt one of your classmates). Labs, of course, are a bit of an issue. But, Mrs. Dickenson has been very considerate and understanding and is trying to make it work. I know that she has been researching on how to do certain labs at home. Overall, I think that the teachers (and Mrs. Angus) are trying their best to make sure we have the same quality of education as those who are doing in-person classes.
2) I am taking some later once I clean up my space.
3) How is your routine different?
It has been a little bit weird with classes starting because both my sisters and my brother are at home and doing their classes online. So we all have different schedules and routines. My routine is not that different than the normal, in-person school routine. I wake up at 7:25 and get ready for school (shower, eat breakfast, change clothes, etc). Then, at 8:00, I sign into assembly and then into first period. At break, I like to grab a snack and some water. For lunch, my siblings and I usually prepare the night before. So, at lunchtime, I usually cut up some fruit and eat the lunch I prepared the night before (usually like a sandwich). After lunch, I attend the next 2 periods. After school, I grab a snack and start working on my homework.
4) What class was your favorite this past week online?
It's a tie between advanced graphic design and AP Comparative Government. I am really interested in graphic design, specifically, the marketing/communication side of it but am also interested in global studies, international relations, stuff like that so I am excited for both classes.
5) Were there any complications this week?
There were some complications this week but Mrs. Angus mentioned beforehand that was expected. Before school started, they sent us an email about how to access the Convocation at 8:00. And so, on the first day of school, my brother and I were trying to access the Convocation at 8 in the morning through the zoom link they sent us but it was not letting us in. Around 8:10, we got an email from Mrs. Angus on how we are Convocation was actually at 8:30 and we needed to join the assembly link for high school students. But, she sent us an email later, containing a video from Mr. Lamas. He apologized for the last-minute communication and said how it was be avoided in the future (link to the video: https://www.loom.com/share/7c68f341a23c44a9afac1d25c4df47da?utm_medium=gif).
6) How do you motivate yourself to stay productive even at home?
It is hard. I still haven't completely grasped the concept that we are in school yet. In order to be more productive, I have established a working environment at my desk. So, basically, I only so schoolwork in that location (and if I want to do something else not related to school, I go to a more comfortable place to establish a mindset that I have to only work at that location if that makes sense). I try to keep my space as organized as possible but sometimes it just does not work out. I also try to minimize distractions. For example, usually, when I am working, my phone is out of sight (either in the drawer or across the room).
Hello, everyone. As I am sure most of you now know, our esteemed faculty advisor, Mr. Robillard, was in an accident. It is our job to do everything we can to help. I know that I want to see Mr. Robillard back on campus, healthy, and drinking his tea during assembly as he talks about Global Studies events. He is such a vital part of North Cross, and I cherish his enthusiasm everyday during class. So what can we do?
1. Send a video to Mr. Belderes (firstname.lastname@example.org) with words of encouragement and any get well wishes you have. When Mr. Robillard is able, he will see all of our messages.
2. Donate to Meal Train. This way, we can support his family. Here is the link.
Any contribution you can make is greatly appreciated. Thanks so much.
By Tobi Bankole
When the recipient of the 2020 Norch Cross alumni award was announced, a few faculty members could not contain their excitement. AP U.S. history teacher and Herald advisor Robert Robillard, seemed thrilled at the chance to engage with Dr. Caroline Light ‘87, a professor and accomplished author.
“It was exciting to see the school honor an historian,” Robillard said, “expecially one who publishes in and promotes the field of journalism.”
Dr. Light earned history degrees at Duke and Kentucky before becomin the Director of Undergraduate Studies in the Women and Gender Studies (WGS) at Harvard. Her background as an historian gives her a unique perspective on current events, which is evident in her 2017 book Stand Your Ground.
“In the process of studying history, I actually transformed to become more of a journalist in many ways, and that’s where I am right now. I’m still evolving; I like studying the past, but the that way I approach the study of the past is to think about how we’re going to problem solve in the contemporary moment. I’m really interested in urgent contemporary issues and questions and problems that we’re all facing.”
Light is passionate about sharing her knowledge in a way that is accessible for young audiences. In her session with AP U.S. History students, she spent the time fielding questions and answering them in ways that were not only easy to understand, but conducive to more student questions and comments.
Mahum Hashmi ‘19 shares what she liked about the class period. “She had a unique way of thinking about things. Her opinions were really articulate and interesting.”
The room was packed not only with students, but with faculty and staff who jumped at the chance to hear Light speak. Questions were asked not only by students, but by Director of Upper School Mark Thompson and Chinese and yearbook teacher Nicki Dabney.
At the end of the session, students and faculty alike shared a laugh as Robillard asked Light to sign his copy of Stand Your Ground.
Transitioning from controversial gun laws to her other area of expertise, Light ate lunch with students to talk about the state of gender and sexuality education and information access at NCS. Informally, she engaged the small group of students about their experiences with intersectional education, and shared her thoughts on where to improve.
Nora Terrill ‘20 shared what she liked about the lunch. “She really wanted to know about our experiences, and you could tell that she genuinely cared.”
In the afternoon, all high school students got the chance to hear speak during activity period, when she officially accepted her award. She spent the duration of her speech talking about the importance of educating the next generation to discern between fact and opinion, expressing confidence in the students sitting before her. She shared how her experiences in graduate school shaped her perspective on the issues she teaches on.
While the students enjoyed this and it was directed at them, there were a few teachers who were moved.
“I found her very thought provoking, and found it necessary to do some self reflection,” said Dean of Students Stephen Belderes.
Weeks later, a small group of students had the opportunity to meet Dr. Light again in her office at Harvard. They saw a protest on behalf of one of Dr. Light’s close colleagues who was denied tenure, and listened to her speak on the injustices that she faces in the academic world.
She talked about life in Cambridge, from being a cyclist to art around Boston, and told the Harvard Model United Nations delegation about both the good and bad of being a WGS professor at Harvard.
“She talked a lot about how things weren’t perfect for her department,” says Tanner Vogel ‘22. “Like how they’re in a basement and don’t get a lot of funding.”
But above all, Dr Light’s message was hopeful. She shared exciting plans for WGS to move into a newer building, the influx of students she’s had over the past few years, and her vision of a future where WGS is valued even more.