May 13, 2020
By Kelli Gile, WVUSD Office of Community Resources
WALNUT, CA--Being under COVID-19 stay-at-home orders has made it nearly impossible for educators to spend time with their students, barring weekly Google Meet or Zoom lessons.
Vejar Elementary first grade teacher Lisa Gomez had been struggling being away from the youngsters, but what “broke” her was learning that they were pretending to be strong too.
“It’s so hard when six and seven year-olds look you straight in the eye and tell you they miss you so much,” she shared.
They even admitted that they couldn’t wait for the Monday and Friday online meetings just to hear the sound of their teacher’s voice.
And that’s when the dam broke.
“There were times when I couldn’t hold it in and shed a few tears, but kept going so it would be unnoticed,” she said.
When Gomez began sharing videos with the kids, parents reported seeing their children “hit the replay on the computer so they could keep hearing her voice.”
So, the teacher devised an out-of-the box solution to stay connected with students that didn’t violate the social distancing protocol - Flat Miss Gomez.
Gomez downloaded her personal Bitmoji digital character, printed up copies of the four-inch paper doll, and mailed one to every youngster.
“I sent it with a letter telling them that now we can be back together again!” she said.
“Mini Miss Gomez, as they like to call her, can listen, be there with them, and play all day.”
With that, the students began sharing photos swimming, biking, dancing, playing games, and staging a fashion show with their stand-in teacher.
The light-bulb idea was borrowed from the popular “Flat Stanley” children’s book by Jeff Brown.
“I eat with them, they read to me, and at night they find ways to tuck me in, and take care of me.”
“And they even keep me safe with a mask and by washing my hands,” she added.
She also sent homemade unity bracelets to the children to help the class feel closer during the school closure.
Gomez recently learned that her miniature character would be going backyard camping with one of her students – with the adventure recorded on a Go Pro camera.
“My teacher heart is full, it still hurts, but these photos bring a smile to my face just like these kids did every day in my classroom!”
Vejar Elementary teacher Lisa Gomez created a Bitmoji paper doll to stay connected with students.