Special Delivery: Teacher assures students have the tools they need

As COVID-19 made its impact throughout Westchester County, New York state and beyond, a whirlwind of activity took place in school districts when the governor decided to close schools. Suddenly students and teachers no longer had access to their classrooms and learning was taking place in virtual spaces. Everyone from school administrators and teachers to students and their families had to adjust to a new normal.

When Cosmetology teacher Yolanda Lopez realized some of her students had left school without certain materials they would need, she went the extra step. After receiving permission to visit her classroom at the Center for Career Services, Ms. Lopez boxed up 41 manikin heads and other materials, visited FedEx and shipped them to her students

Until that point, Ms. Lopez had been giving her students hand-written assignments. But manikins, models of a human head with hair, play a critical role in student learning. The manikins have human hair and enable cosmetology students to practice blowouts, curling styles, updos and more.

“Anything you can do on human hair, you can do on a manikin,” Ms. Lopez said.

Access to the manikins also enables students to broaden what they are can do while distance learning is in place. Some students may not have family members available or willing to have them work on their hair or have styles or chemically treated hair that prohibit having a blowout done.

“There are limitations on what they can do without a manikin,” Ms. Lopez said.

When students receive their manikins at home, Ms. Lopez will encourage them to shampoo and blow dry, do curl styles with curling iron, or do a braid

“Get creative, show me something. There are no limitations as long as you do something,” she said.

In addition to the written work, students have been encouraged to practice their manicure techniques and work on makeup application. She knows most of her students have hand cream and nail polish at home they can use to practice.

“Today I assigned students to go hunting in their house and find things you can do on a manicure,” Ms. Lopez said as a way to find inspiration. The assignment also includes students taking photos and short videos of the process — how they set up their workstation, the hand massage technique they have learned and the final result.

She has also encouraged students to do a before-and-after project with makeup, taking photos for her so she can see their work.

The transition from in-class work to distance learning was an adjustment for all involved. Ms. Lopez and her students were familiar with Google Classroom, although much of the time it was her teacher assistant who managed the Google Classroom. She and many of her students had to learn how to use the program. It took a few weeks for everyone to feel comfortable using Google Classroom in a new way and adjust to not being in school each day. Now, she said, about 80 percent of her students are submitting work.

“I’m happy. Every week I make phone calls, I am emailing and talking to parents and students,” Ms. Lopez said. “Parents are very positive that I am taking the time to call. The students are also happy to hear that I am talking to them. I call sometimes to just say ‘hello.’ I want to know how they are doing.”