Spangdahlem AB education expands past school walls with digital learning

Jacob Goldfuss, 4, a student at Spangdahlem Air Base Elementary School and son of U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Austin May, 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs command information section chief, and Staff Sgt. Candace Goldfuss, 52nd Security Forces Squadron operations NCO, reads a book with his teacher from his home in Niersbach, Germany, April 22, 2020. Students and teachers are meeting in real time through digital platforms to enforce physical distancing and prevent the spread of COVID-19. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Valerie R. Seelye)

SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany — Department of Defense Education Activity closed buildings and launched digital learning for Spangdahlem Air Base schools in March 2020, to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Although students are staying home and physically separated from classmates, the situation is showing a positive outcome.

“Students have been given the opportunity to implement their technology skills into a real-world situation,” said Scott Tefft, Spangdahlem AB Elementary School principal. “These skills can be applied after leaving our schools and will be a benefit for future in-seat education.”

The digital platforms allow students and teachers to expand learning.

“Students are engaging live with their teachers on a daily basis, just as they would in a face-to-face education environment,” Tefft said. “The digital platform allows for the classrooms to expand past the school walls and integrate content from around the world.”

The change has allowed flexibility for students.

“Virtual learning has been more convenient for me because the teachers are always available to help during and after school hours, and they’re always quick to respond,” said Melody Marino, 16, a student at Spangdahlem High School and daughter of U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sgt. Sebastiano Marino, 52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs superintendent, and Luz Marino. “Before virtual learning, school and sports took up almost my entire day, but now I can easily finish an assignment and go outside until the next class period starts.”

Tefft said the principles of the base’s three schools are grateful for students’ hard work during this time.
“We are so very grateful for your hard work and your flexibility as we all work together to make the best of a challenging situation,” Tefft said. “What a privilege it is for us to work with you and be a part of the Spangdahlem Saber Nation team. Kids, you are awesome.”

Teachers and parents are also making the situation positive.

“The teachers are eager to support and we all are so grateful for the work and support the parents are providing at home,” Tefft said. “We know the success of this digital learning process is due in large part to our parents. They have so much on their plates, and their positive, flexible attitude and spirit is recognized and appreciated.”

Physically closing school doors proved Saber Nation to be resilient.

“April is the Month of the Military Child and we are genuinely thankful to be navigating this unique time with kids and families who are known for being resilient, determined, flexible, great problem solvers, and who adapt and find ways to succeed,” Tefft said. “Stay the course, reach out to your teachers or school leadership if you need help, and we will get through this.”