Rockwood Early Childhood Education
speech-language pathologist Kim Gerth is one of 19 educators from around the country who have been selected for this year's PBS Digital Innovator All-Star Program
Gerth was nominated by the Nine Network of Public Media for the program, which recognizes teachers doing extraordinary work in their local communities, supporting student learning by integrating media and digital technology in their teaching environments and inspiring students to use these tools in responsible, effective and empowering ways. Nine Network selected her as one of the channel's 10 Early Learning Champions
Gerth, who works at Ballwin Elementary
, is the only member of the PBS cohort who works in early childhood and is a special educator.
"A lot of what I do is with kids who aren't verbal yet, who have really significant communication needs," Gerth said. "We have iPads that have communication software in them, so I teach kids how to use them. We also make videos of stories that we're going to read in class, or a play activity, and we send it home to the parents to let them know what we're going to do so they can watch it with the kids the weekend before. When the kids come to school, it's something familiar that they've already seen, and they're more likely to want to participate."
During the 2020-2021 school year, Gerth and the rest of the educators in the program will get the chance to deepen engagement among students, families, educators, schools and their local PBS stations.
"What's exciting is we have PBS behind us," Gerth said. "They're asking for our passions and what we're interested in, and they'll help us create. I feel like I can make an impact because a lot of early childhood educators in the region – if they're daycare providers or don't have a special education program as part of their schools – may not know signs to look for or how to help kids with language difficulties or who aren't communicating very well. I can help them integrate some ideas for easy ways they can get kids engaged and involved."
Virtual connections with students have become even more prevalent during this period of remote learning.
Gerth said that, early in the Rockwood Alternative Learning Plan, she held a read-aloud during a Ballwin teacher's Zoom circle time. One of the parents said that her daughter might not be attentive because she doesn't do well focusing on screens.
But once Gerth started reading, the student came over from across the room to see what was happening on the computer. When Gerth got to the student's favorite part of the book, the student smiled.
"That was really cool," Gerth said. "That was a connection from me at my house to her at her house, and that connection is still there even though I'm not there in person. We have a really strong team at Ballwin, so it's me and the teachers working together to keep connections with the kids."