August 2020 | Page 5

was St. Luke’s in the Field on Hudson Street in the West Village of Manhattan. Although Rachel was born in New York City, she has no memory of it and hazy recollection of her early years in Missouri and Indianapolis, where she lived until she was ten. The most memorable aspects of her childhood happened in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Except for a brief stint in the Pacific Northwest, Albuquerque has always been her home.

When Rachel isn’t teaching or gardening, both of which require their own significant immersion in time, she spends time with her husband Robb, or takes road trips, favoring the trek through the Jemez Mountains of New Mexico. The craggy southernmost tip of the Rocky Mountains offers her a scenic meditation through meadows, streams, lakes, and the Santa Fe National Forest. Every winding turn through wilderness and harsh but beautiful terrain churns with travertine formations, hidden grottos and vistas yawning toward the sky. The ruins of a 17th century mission church spring up along the journey the same way hot springs and volcanic vents reveal the land’s past.

There haven’t been any road trips this summer. Rachel’s elementary school was shut in March and suddenly she was teaching online classes to her first-graders, which is vexing to even the best teachers. Six-year-olds are not terribly adept to learning via zoom casts on a tablet, and if you throw a whole host of learning styles and disabilities into the fray, you have an education program that is almost assured to fail.

But Rachel is stubborn and doesn’t give up without a fight. When she and her colleagues started hearing about a shutdown, they were in the midst of their parent-teacher conferences. Students weren’t in the classroom. The days were back-to-back meetings with parents. It was late afternoon on Thursday, March 12th when word came that the shutdown was going to happen the very next day. Rachel pulled rabbits out of a hat, using every trick in the book to engage her young students in the world of online learning.

The teachers quickly sprang into action and pulled together emergency packets to send home to the kids via their parents. Each child got two volumes of discontinued reading programs in their native language, plus guides to build vocabulary and phonics skills in both Spanish and English. Packets included math reviews, basic school supplies, pencils, crayons, erasers and composition notebooks. A week into the shutdown, it soon became clear the school was not going to start back up in three weeks. Deadlines for reopening passed and the school stayed closed. New packets were put together with essential math workbooks, tools to build vocabulary, more basic school supplies. scissors, glue, Play-Doh, and a watercolor scrapbook designed for kids to create a family memory book. The packets put together by Rachel and her fellow teachers had a 100% pick up rate by parents who took them home to their children.

Until the pandemic shut down school, the teachers had little training to teach digitally. Teachers were rushed through online webinars and sent exhaustive pages of links to come up to speed.

St Luke in the Fields

Rachel at Jemez mountains