Gerry Dee and Body Break make guest appearances in Waterloo Region classrooms
In an effort to help keep kids engaged during long, screen-filled school days, Canadian comedian Gerry Dee and Body Break founders, Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod have been popping into virtual classrooms in Waterloo Region.
Last week, Dee surprised students from Jacob Hespeler Secondary School in Cambridge during a phys-ed leadership class.
Teacher Nancy Spreitzer messaged Dee, after he posted a note to educators on twitter, offering his time.
“TEACHERS, DM me a ZOOM link and a time TODAY & TOMORROW you have a remote class happening & I will jump on and chat to your students. Gives you a little break!” he posted.
“He actually messaged me back and said he would try his best to show up to my class, and I just really had a good feeling,” Spreitzer explained to CTV News.
Dee didn’t guarantee an appearance to teachers, “I won't tell you ahead of time so just let me in if you see me waiting. DM's open!” his tweet continued.
An effort to keep teachers and students on their toes and paying attention.
“It was really exciting because I saw in the corner, Gerry Dee was waiting to get admitted into the class and I am thinking, ‘oh my gosh here we go’,” Spreitzer added.
“I am just hopping on to some of these calls throughout the country,” Dee said to the grade 12 class as he casually asked them how their day was going.
“I thought it was really nice, it was definitely a change,” student Fionna Marshall said.
“I got to hear more of my classmates voices,” she added, in reference to the fact that some students don’t always turn on their video or microphone during online classes.
Marshall added that Dee’s involvement, brought quieter students forward.
“Hey Mr. D,” and “Gerry Dee!” could be heard in the video the Family Feud Canada host posted to his twitter.
The actions of Dee, a former teacher himself, inspired another set of well-known Canadians to do the same.
Popular television fitness duo Hal Johnson and Joanne McLeod from Body Break posted a similar message on Twitter.
“I tweeted it out, and got on the stationary bike and worked out for about an hour and half and got off the bike and checked my twitter account,” Johnson told CTV News.
“I wonder if anybody picked it up, one or two?” he laughed, thinking the response would be small.
Little did the pair know, hundreds of teachers responded, including Katie Armstrong and Allison Moore at Courtland Avenue Public School in Kitchener.
On Tuesday morning, Johnson and McLeod virtually visited Lincoln Heights public school in Waterloo, before hosting a full school assembly for Courtland Avenue from their home gym in Muskoka.
Courtland phys-ed teacher Allison Moore said it was great to see the pair get students moving, up and out of their chairs, during the assembly.
”It can definitely be tricky at times, it’s a subject that is a little challenging to translate into that online format, but the students have been doing great,” she said in reference to physical education.
Moore was beyond happy and “very appreciative.” Adding that she felt very nostalgic hearing the Body Break slogan, “Keep fit and have fun.”
“It can be a long day sitting in front of the computer,” Moore admitted while smiling. Happy to have had the pair encourage her students and promote physical and mental wellbeing.
Johnson said he and his wife now have two full days of back-to-back meetings with schools across the country.
Adding that they wish they had more time, “I spent until 2:30 or so in the morning, responding to all the teachers telling them that ‘sorry, we couldn’t fit you in this time.’”
The pair told CTV News their daughter, is also learning from home during post-secondary studies. Adding that physical health and mental health are connected, and it’s important to keep both on track during what has a been a difficult pandemic for everyone.
Last year, Courtland Avenue also had Canadian comedian Jonathan Torrance say hello to a virtual class.
Principal of Courtland Avenue, Mike Coates says he’s proud of teachers for keeping things fresh, while learning at home is necessary, “We all miss in-person learning we can’t wait to open our doors again.”
Until then, drop-in visitors, are just one of many creative ways educators are trying to keep kids’ attention online.
“We include some games sometimes, we are doing a whole school read-aloud of a book as well,” Moore added.
For Spreitzer, the actors visit sparked a new Family Feud style game tradition she now uses in her virtual classroom.
“It was really cool for them to be able to connect with somebody who is a Canadian role model,” she added.
“The more we are online, the harder it gets because we are missing out on even more,” Marshall said from a student perspective.
On his twitter profile, Dee also posted a conversation he had at home with his own daughter.
“Me: “I’m happy to pop onto your on-line class today if you want? My daughter: “Oh my God dad, please don’t. That would be so embarrassing”.
The comedian also tweeted, “Thanks to all the teachers and students who let me visit their on-line classes yesterday & today. It was such a pleasure to meet as many of you as I did. Stay safe everyone.”