In the past year, the Covid-19 outbreak caused hybrid learning to become the norm, with teachers instructing students in the classroom and virtually. Teachers in Big Sandy Area Community Action Program’s Head Start program have adapted to this new style to great success. The work done by instructors to find new and engaging ways of teaching resulted in over 1,000 students across the Big Sandy Region being able to demonstrate school readiness skills and earned some teachers a national spotlight.

Because of the pandemic, faculty looked to engage students in more fun and interesting ways by creating videos that would entertain as well as teach. During a regular meeting with a program specialist with the Region 4 Head Start office in Atlanta, Georgia, Tracy Jenkins, BSACAP Head

Mercedes Burke, left, and Sarah Ray, pictured on the right, from Model City Head Start had their virtual teaching videos showcased to the National Center for Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning, one of four national training centers.

Start Grantee Director, shared theses videos while giving updates on the prog

ram. The videos began circulating in the Region 4 office, making their way to the National Center for Early Childhood Development, Teaching, and Learning, a national Head Start training center. As a result of their work during the pandemic, Model City Head Start teachers Mercedes Burke and Sarah Ray were recognized for their success at a national symposium.

“There were a lot of negative comments last year about how virtual teaching wasn’t that great and [the specialist in the Region 4 office] wanted to prove there were programs out there that were doing great things,” said Jenkins.

“I had a hard time keeping students interested,” said Burke. “I thought I’d bring some magic into the classroom.” Inspired by not only her students, but by her nephew and the videos he would watch on Youtube, Burke found herself utilizing the skills of “movie magic” to keep students engaged. Using the iMovie app on her iPhone, she was able create the illusion that she magically moved from place to place, providing a visual representation of the subject she was teaching.

Sarah Ray, a lead teacher with Model City Head Start, showcased her skills using the popular app TikTok as well as iMovie. The two allowed for a variety of different effects and scenarios that could be used to teach children in an interactive manner while making it fun. She dressed up as a character named “Pete the Cat” and would play out the scenarios of the book being read. She plans on bringing the character to her in-person classroom.

“[The children] loved the video, even the parents commented that they enjoyed it and thought it was funny,” Ray said. “I did the Pete the Cat video as a funny kind of thing, and I had no idea it would be as big as it was. It had a bigger impression than I thought that it would.”

Burke said the program being nationally recognized was “very unexpected”. “It’s very cool to know, and that it’s us, to have our faces on there. I just wanted to get the kids to laugh and have fun while learning.”

The recognition was felt not just nationally, but also within BSACAP, praising the teachers for their ingenuity and creativity to reach their students in this nontraditional style.

“It’s so simple but so effective” said Jenkins. “I thought it was something that every teacher could use and this is by far better than just sitting and listening to somebody talk.”

BSACAP Executive Director Wanda Thacker said, “We’re very proud of the work these teachers have done to keep their students safe, healthy, and engaged in their education. The last school year was a challenging one for parents, teachers, and children, but the creativity our Head Start teachers have shown and their willingness to go the extra mile for their students is a testament to the love our teachers have for learning and for their students.”

BSACAP’s Head Start is comprised of seven programs operated through local county and city Boards of Education and directly operates the Model City Head Start program. Head Start provides children with an education, preparation for kindergarten, socialization, listening and speaking skills, healthy meals and snacks, vision and hearing tests, assistance with dental and medical needs. To find out more information on enrolling your child in Head Start, call 606-789-1600.

Big Sandy Area Community Action Program is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a vast array of services, such as employment and training assistance, weatherization of homes, and area Head Start programs, in order to assist individuals and families in obtaining self-sufficiency. Through collaborative efforts of community and organizational partnerships, BSACAP seeks to improve the overall quality of life within Floyd, Johnson, Martin, Magoffin, and Pike County communities. To learn more about BSACAP and their programs, visit, follow them on Facebook, or call the service office in your county.