Making the rounds: West High art teacher uses pedal power to stay connected with students

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This story was produced in collaboration between Manchester Proud and the Manchester School District. 

MANCHESTER, NH – When learning went virtual, video visits with her students weren’t enough for West High School art teacher Richella Simard. So, she began pedaling to their homes – up to 15 miles – to say hi from the driveway.

“It has been an absolute joy to do this and connect with them on a more personal level other than Google Meets or via online classes,” said Simard, who has taught in Manchester for 12 years. “I look forward to this every week.”

Simard started her weekly bike visits six weeks ago and sees about 20 students each trip. She lets them know the day’s route and her anticipated arrival time in advance through a secure school website and a private Instagram page. If someone wants a visit, Simard adds them to her route. She’s even had requests from former students. 

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From a socially safe distance, Simard asks about her students’ mental health and whether they need anything – and gets a selfie.

“I tell them that as an adult, I was at a pretty low point being in remote learning,” she said. “This has brought me so much joy, and I know it’s brought them joy, so it’s been nice to share that.” Simard valued the hallway interactions with her students as much as she did the teaching; she said this allows her to maintain at least some connection with them. 

Simard fits the rides around her teaching schedule and intends to keep making the rounds through at least the school year and even into the summer if students still want a visit.

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