Vanessa Cervantes is a mother of three who balances her full-time career at the Grandville Center for Arts and Humanities (GAAH) with her full-time course load at Cornerstone University. Vanessa’s two oldest, Yahir (3rd grade) and Yareli (1st grade) attend Buchanan Elementary. Her youngest child, Yatzelie, just turned 5 months old. The Cervantes family is a very proud GRPS family; both Vanessa and her brother attended Buchanan Elementary when they were younger, and their mother Maria Cervantes has worked in the Buchanan Elementary media office for many years. Vanessa’s brother Javier Cervantes also works in the district’s Communications office and is very well-respected throughout the GRPS community and beyond!
HOW ARE YOU MANAGING HOME, WORK, AND REMOTE SCHOOLING?
In addition to working in Community Engagement at GAAH, Vanessa acts as Buchanan Elementary’s Parent Action Leader (PAL). “I used to work in the after-school LOOP program, and when we were still in person, I helped teachers, tutored students, and was very present at Buchanan during the school day.” She explained that her presence at her children’s school gave them a sense of belonging and helped them feel like Buchanan was their home away from home.
Now that her children are attending school remotely, much of this has changed, but Vanessa remains as involved in her children’s education as before. Still, it’s been a challenge. “My son receives IEP services, so it has been really difficult for him to do testing online,” she explains. “I chose the hybrid in-person option for my kids because I feel it will allow them to engage in the face-to-face classroom setting where they learn best.”
WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE TO OVERCOME WITH REMOTE LEARNING?
Vanessa said that technology has been her family’s biggest challenge. “In the beginning, my children shared a device. I’m so glad that, when this school year began, GRPS was able to provide each of my children with their own device.” She shared that connecting her whole family to the internet has also been a financial challenge. “Everyone in the house needing to connect to the internet was slowing things down for us, which was really an obstacle.”
Vanessa’s children have also found it difficult to maintain friendships with their peers during remote learning. “When my son’s teacher logs off after class, he and his friends like to stay on the videocall afterwards to chat and catch up. I’ll have lunch ready for the kids and hear Yahir giggling from the other room. Then I’ll go find him and see that he’s talking with his friends. I’m so glad he is able to see his friends virtually, and it’s great that he has been able to even meet new friends during distance learning.” It’s amazing how resilient kids can be!
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT REMOTE LEARNING? WHAT DO YOU LIKE LEAST?
When asked what she likes most about remote learning, Vanessa said she is really appreciative of her kids’ teachers. She shared that she has noticed their teachers using classroom management skills to keep all the students on task, despite the distractions that distance learning can present. “Both of my kids’ teachers make an effort to keep the students listening and focused, because it is the same that would be expected of the students in a face-to-face setting,” Vanessa said.
“I also appreciate that the teachers give my kids the option to turn in certain assignments at their own pace,” Vanessa continued. “For me, as a single mom with three kids, working from home and going to school, it is difficult for me to go back and forth with assignments and manage deadlines for all of us.” Life is not easy, especially during these strange circumstances, so flexible deadlines make things easier.
On the other hand, technology glitches and slow internet are the things that have been most challenging during remote learning. “We’ve got to work with what we have. At times, my daughter has come to me saying that she can’t see her teacher. It takes time to log her off and then log her back in, and by the time we’re back online, she’s missed instructions from her teacher, or the class has moved on without her. It’s a challenge.”
However, Vanessa does mention how thankful she is to be able to be at home helping her kids with their remote learning. “We spend a lot more quality time together as a family,” she reflects. “I’m able to connect with them more than before, when they spent all day at school, and I spent the day in the office. Now, we each start our days together and eat lunch and dinner together every day as a family. I love it so much. There are definitely times when I feel like I need some space to breathe, but still, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I love spending time with my kids.”
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOUR CHILDREN/YOURSELF DURING REMOTE LEARNING?
Vanessa shared that her family has learned a lot about themselves during the past few months. “I’ve learned that I’m not as good at math as I thought, but I always manage to teach myself so that I can explain it to my kids. I used to get frustrated when I’d come home late from work with little patience for homework help, but now we work through the problems and find solutions together,” she said. “I think it’s been really beneficial for my children to see that, even though this is difficult, there’s nothing we can’t do together. Whether it’s a math problem, a moment of emotion or frustration, or anything else, we will hold each other’s’ hands and get through it together as a family.”
This is an important lesson Vanessa feels she is teaching her children – no one’s got it all figured out, and we are going through a difficult time, but with patience and teamwork, there is so much we can do together.
DO YOU HAVE ANY ADVICE THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE WITH GRPS FAMILIES?
When asked what advice she’d give other GRPS families, Vanessa had a great answer. “I guess I would say to have patience with your kids because everybody’s going through a difficult time right now. Pay attention to what their needs are, because sometimes it could be just as simple as a hug or an ‘I love you.’ We are all busy. But it takes very little time to share a few words of encouragement with your child. They might be having a hard day, but if you are there to motivate them as their cheerleader, it might make all the difference in the world. Remind them that you will always be there to support them.” Vanessa remembers her parents always being there to motivate her through tough times and makes an effort every day to continue this tradition with her children.