State of the School 10/1/20: Hybrid Learning Update

October 1, 2020 | Thomas Postema

State of the School
October 2, 2020
Technology Update


I’m so grateful that we’ve had a healthy start to the school year.  At home and at school, students are learning and building community. They’re collaborating in new ways during class time. Middle school students just completed a week of MAP Growth testing. First grade students are learning about the properties of water. Fourth grade students are thinking about what character traits they want to bring to the classroom this year. Some ideas are kind, helpful, energetic. 

Teachers have been responding to the needs of students who are on-site and at home. And they’ve been getting creative with their asynchronous videos. Did you see the Rosh Hashanah video made by the third grade? Or the Creation video Ms. Sytsma made with the help of preschool students and teachers? They’re really wonderful!

It’s not been easy, but thanks to all of you–students, parents, and teachers–learning is happening in beautiful ways. And we’re together again. Thanks be to God!

I’ve seen many of you as you drop off your children in the morning. It’s the highlight of my day to even catch a glimpse of you. You’re getting the hang of the new check-in procedures. Thank you for helping us keep everyone in the community safe. 

I want to take a moment to share with you an update about technology and how we’re removing barriers to your child’s education.

Behind the scenes, our technology staff worked diligently throughout the summer and the beginning of this fall to update many of the systems that support instruction. First, we focused on beginning the school year strong and supporting students and families through the transition into our hybrid learning environment.  

Now it’s time for us to make certain that we can be nimble if the need arises for us to switch to Distance Learning. Remember, Distance Learning may go into effect for any cohort impacted by COVID-19 or for the school at large if we see a dramatic rise in cases in our area.  

To that end, I would like to introduce you to the Clever Family Portal.  

Clever is a portal through which students use one port of entry to access nearly all of their software and links for digital learning. Students in lower grades can use Clever to access Seesaw and other websites where they find their daily distance learning activities. Middle school students can use Clever to access Google Classroom and other learning apps, such as MathSpace. 

To login, students in Kindergarten-3rd grade will use a QR code! This code is referred to as a badge. Students in grades 4-8 will login using their Google email account.

We do not want anyone to end up at home, unable to access school learning platforms.

In the next several weeks, Jen Gautier, our Technology Coordinator, will send you an email inviting you to join the Clever Family Portal. Please accept the invitation and sign up. Once you sign up, you’ll be able to use the Clever portal if your child gets stuck. You’ll be able to print a replacement badge for your child if they lose theirs. Or you can request a one-time code immediately so they can log back in.  

While we are not planning to make a change to distance learning at this time, we need to be ready.  Now would be a good time to ensure that your home internet service will support online learning.

If you would like more information about Clever, you can go to

This week you received a survey asking you about how this year is going so far. Your feedback last year helped us immensely as we shaped our distance learning program. We’ll continue to reach out to you to ask you about the hybrid learning model: what is going well, what needs improvement, and how we can better serve you during this time.

In the meantime, feel free to get in touch with me if you have a concern or even if you want to share something that you feel is going well. Your encouragement is very helpful to our faculty and staff who are working hard to make sure that your children receive the best education possible.

Bye for now. 

Thomas Postema

Head of School

Mr. Postema was the Head of School from Fall 2011 to Spring 2021, when he retired.

An educator for over 35 years, Mr. Postema taught math and was a school administrator at international schools in Japan and South Korea, as well as schools in the USA (New Jersey and Alaska). He taught at Mustard Seed from 1989-1991 when Mr. Cuervo and Mr. Johnson were MSS students!

As Head of School, Mr. Postema successfully led the school through the NJAIS accreditation process and the Together for Tomorrow endowment campaign, which raised over $3M to benefit MSS students. Mr. Postema loves to tell the Mustard Seed story and continues to be passionate about the mission even in his retirement.

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