Mr. Brooks supports King of the 3rd grade during his daily in-person proctored eLearning.

Stories of Resilience and Growth

As unconventional as this school year has been, it has prompted innovative thinking, encouraged students to find alternative ways to problem solve and introduced new opportunities for leadership. We’d like to highlight some examples of how our students have shown resilience and growth throughout this time.

We invited Bryland of the 3rd grade and his mom, Ms. Osborne, to share their experience during his first year at CJA and their hopes for the upcoming school year. We also invited Ms. Kerry Shanahan of our 3rd-grade faculty to reflect on this past year of instruction and how she plans to take what she’s learned to continue to center students’ voices and take great care of our students.

Our hope remains that we can welcome all of our students back to campus in the fall, and we will continue to work closely with our families to understand their needs so that we may best serve our young men. Thank you for walking alongside us every step of the way.

In gratitude,

Jessica Green
Development Officer


A Word From Our Families

We spoke with Ms. Osborne and her son, Bryland, of the 3rd grade about their first year at CJA and their hopes for the upcoming school year. We look forward to what lies ahead for Bryland, and we are so proud to welcome him and Ms.Osborne to the CJA community!

What expectations did you have going into this school year with it being Bryland’s first year at CJA?

Ms. Osborne: My only expectation going into this school year was for Bryland to be comfortable and relaxed because this transition was big. My older son had just left for college, and Bryland was no longer going to be in the same place as me. I was worried that the two people that he saw daily and were available to him every day all day, were no longer with him during school hours. I was hoping his grades and self-esteem wouldn’t leave and he wouldn’t be shy and not excel.

Have there been any positive aspects of remote learning? If so, what are they?

Ms. Osborne: eLearning has been nothing but positive with CJA. I was most amazed when I saw an actual schedule of his learning that was going to be taking place. After having a meeting with his teachers and them letting me know the expectations that they had even though it was virtual made me say “this is the place Bryland belongs.” Bryland’s first semester was good, but his teachers and I knew he could do better. We were presented with having Bryland stay for study hall. Best decision that we could have made. Bryland’s grades and the presentation of his work have excelled beyond belief. Since being a part of study hall and meeting with Ms. Fleming, Bryland’s self-confidence has skyrocketed, and I am forever grateful for having the opportunity for Bryland to be a part of both.

What has surprised you the most this school year?

Ms. Osborne: The only thing that surprised me, in the beginning, was the actual schedule and the fact that the kids were still being held accountable for their education. When eLearning first started, Bryland was at another school, and his only requirement was to read 30 minutes a day. No face-to-face with his teacher, no actual lesson or anything. So, when it was time for him to start at CJA, I was really impressed when I saw the schedule and how the teachers would be involved with the kids on a daily basis.

How have the CJA faculty and staff supported Bryland’s transition to a new school community, especially in a virtual learning environment?

Ms. Osborne: Friendly and always happy to see the students when they log on in the morning. As I listen from the other room, I always hear the teacher greet them personally and cheerful. Continuous check-ins provide information that we as parents may not be aware of. Constant communication if there are any concerns in a change of behavior. Always seeking ways that CJA could be of assistance to us.

What is the most challenging part of learning over Zoom?

Bryland: Being connected to the internet because it lags out sometimes.

How have you been able to overcome those challenges since the beginning of the school year?

Bryland: I’ve been overcoming internet issues by paying attention and looking at the teacher’s lips sometimes to read them. When the internet kicks me out, I log back in.

How have you leaned on your family and teachers when you are in need of help?

Bryland: I would raise my hand if I need help from my teacher. If I need help from my mom, I will go to her if I’m stuck on an assignment.

What is your favorite subject and why?

Bryland: My favorite subject is Science because I learn about different chemicals to mix.

How have Ms. Shanahan and Ms. Kuhns helped to make learning fun during your Zoom classes?

Bryland: They have made learning fun in class for me because they joke about funny things and they find cool things for us to watch.

What advice would you give next year’s group of 3rd graders as they begin their first year at CJA?

Bryland: Never to give up and if you are stuck on something raise your hand or ask a parent.

What do you hope 4th grade looks like for you and your classmates?

Bryland: I hope that we can learn about Science in 4th grade. How I think it will look for me is another level of 3rd grade but a little more challenging. Since I will be in 4th grade, I will learn new strategies for the things I do in 3rd grade.

Bryland and Ms. Osborne
Student and Parent, 3rd Grade


Centering Students’ Voices

After eleven years in the classroom, I typically feel confident in my ability to navigate classroom ups and downs. Enter a global pandemic, however, and that confidence scoots right out the door.

As we entered into eLearning, my initial fears were that we would struggle to build a classroom community and that students wouldn’t be able to learn about and from each other. Fortunately, my team and I were able to build community by incorporating intentional times for students to interact, share thoughts and feelings, and most importantly, be kids. I am a firm believer that joy should be the center of all learning. It has been wonderful to see our students push each other’s thinking, support one another, tell each other jokes and cheer each other on.

In the news and on social media you often hear adults’ concerns about “learning loss” in the COVID era. But in my experience, eLearning has been less challenging than I expected because of CJA’s resilient group of learners. In our virtual classroom, our students navigate technology, share creatively with classmates and utilize different tools to share and explain their thinking. At the start of the school year, one of my students had low engagement in my class and frequently kept his camera off. As he gained more confidence using technology, he learned how to publish a book, he taught classmates how to upload photos and modeled how to answer questions by sharing his screen — all skills he wouldn’t necessarily have gained within the four walls of a traditional classroom.

This year has reinforced what we already know — children’s voices must be heard and centered. Students and teachers were presented with such a unique opportunity to navigate eLearning together. I hope that the past year has taught our students that they have a voice and how to use it to advocate for themselves. Moving forward into 2021 and beyond, my hope is that we will continue to really listen to and prioritize students’ needs.

Ms. Kerry Shanahan
Faculty Member, 3rd Grade


Looking Ahead

As we close out the school year, we are optimistic about the path forward. We now have 40% of students back in the building for in-person proctored eLearning each day, and the balance of our students continue to learn remotely at their parents’ request. We anticipate having 80-85% of our students learning in person by June for our summer term.

In addition to this, our in-person students, faculty and staff are receiving twice-weekly PCR-based COVID testing through SHIELD Illinois. Our faculty and staff have had access to the vaccine and our students’ families who live in multi-generational homes have taken great care in making sure their elders have had access to the vaccine as well. Community access to testing and the vaccine has helped our students’ families feel more comfortable with having our young men return to CJA for in-person learning. We hope to have 100% of our families ready for their children to return to CJA by August.

None of this would be possible without the unwavering support of our benefactors, faculty and staff, families and volunteers. Thank you for walking alongside us every step of the way.


Upcoming Events

  • CJA Closed for Spring Break/Holy Week – 3/29 through 4/5
  • CJA Closed for Memorial Day – 5/31
  • Cura Personalis Conferences – 6/1 through 6/4