Posted May 6, 2020
When Lorain County Community College (LCCC) announced remote delivery of courses to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, music instructor Mark Jessie, DMA, quickly realized many of his students didn’t have the materials they needed to continue their courses at home. He immediately took on the task of figuring out how to make the classes work for his students and ultimately provided two musical keyboards and hand-delivered numerous workbooks to students’ homes.
Jessie wanted to continue his classes in the best way possible. “I knew what I wanted to accomplish. The question was how we get there given our situation and limitations.”
When it was announced March 10 that classes would be going remote, the Elyria resident and councilman checked in with his piano class, collegiate chorale and vocal ensemble, and found that two of his eight students didn’t have a keyboard at home. “The only way this was going to work was if the other two had keyboards,” he said he thought.
Jessie shortly went to work to find two keyboards. Through his church, the First United Methodist Church in Elyria, he was able to acquire a keyboard that wasn’t being used and delivered it to a student at home.
Olivia True, 20-year-old keyboarding student from Elyria, said she was “super stoked” to get the keyboard. “I thought it would be really hard to do music classes online since everything is so hands-on.”
“I’m so grateful” for the keyboard, the music major said. “Not a lot of people would go out of their way to get things for the students, but Dr. Jessie was kind enough to keep me in his brain and think of me…My piano skills have honestly gotten way better since I’m able to practice every day.” True plans to become a vocal music teacher in the future.
Jessie found another keyboard for the other student to use from the home of LCCC Arts and Humanities Dean Brenda Pongracz. He also delivered that keyboard to the student’s home.
The instructor’s piano class now meets through short Zoom lessons with each student one-on-one twice a week. “We’ve gotten into a routine,” he said. “It’s worked out very well.”
Jessie also went the extra mile for his music theory class of 15 students. “I started struggling with how to do it when the three-week (and ultimately full-term) remote announcement was made,” he said. “I knew we could have class on Zoom but in terms of their homework assignments there was a challenge. I found out that only four out of 14 students had printers and scanners at home.”
Because of the nature of the coursework assignments, the students needed some way to complete and turn in paper assignments. Jessie immediately asked for special permission to come to campus alone to use a printer on March 24 right before the stay-at-home order in Ohio came into effect.
Jessie went through materials and created a packet of any and all information that students might need to finish the semester, he said. The instructor then hand-delivered the large workbook packets to the 11 students at their houses over the course of six hours. “I was happy to do it,” he said. “The students were very happy and appreciative.”
Jessie says online learning for the course is going fine. He adapted the music theory class by splitting the students into two meeting times on Zoom and giving assignments that can be turned in via a cell phone photograph of workbook papers.
“The class Zoom meetings are an opportunity to check in,” Jessie said. “The students have developed a strong friendship among them as a class.”
Overall, Jessie sees his students for more than just students. He expressed that he’s concerned about them on a personal level.
“It’s my obligation as instructor to make sure students get as much of the material as they can. They paid for these courses so they deserve to have every effort made so they can successfully complete them,” Jessie said. “There’s another aspect, and that’s their emotional and personal lives. Everyone has some degree of stress because of the virus, and you don’t know what someone’s home life is like.”
“Other instructors are doing the same kinds of things,” Jessie said. “I know this the norm,” he said of the college’s culture of care and helping students.
“We do what we can do to help people cope with the whole situation. It’s what a college should be, looking at the total wellbeing of students, not just the intellectual, but emotional side.”
Jessie has taught at LCCC for three years and is active in the community. A husband and father to four, and grandfather to three, he was the choir director for Elyria High School during his 23 years of teaching at the school before retiring in 2014.