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Grand Gesture

Alumna embraces online learning to teach grandchildren
Story Series

Attending Bridgewater State sparked Janice Polvinen Mead’s 30-year career in the Brockton Public Schools. Amid the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, those same lessons help her complete an especially meaningful educational mission.

Mead, who earned graduate and undergraduate health and physical education degrees from Bridgewater in the 1980s, is teaching four of her grandchildren and her niece through the videoconferencing platform Zoom.

“I use everything I learned,” said Mead, whose family includes multiple generations of Bridgewater graduates. “I’m trying to think back to all those things.”

Mead is nothing but resourceful, turning everyday items into learning tools. She converted an apron into a roadmap of the human body, with major parts marked in their approximate location. And, her young pupils excitedly completed clover-themed art for a lesson on symmetry.

“They just came through on anything I asked of them, which is wonderful,” she said.

The children also love seeing and interacting with each other.

Mead takes her unexpected role as family educator seriously. She plans lessons and vocabulary drills and devises tools to ensure her students understand the material. In addition to teaching, Mead makes masks for medical professionals, family and friends.

Multitasking is nothing new for her, as she attended Bridgewater State while a young mother; at times even bringing her baby to class. Bridgewater was the second college she attended, but it quickly became home.

“I felt much more taken care of at Bridgewater,” Mead recalled. “It was a more personal education. I just felt more comfortable there. You weren’t lost in a mass of people. I always felt like someone was there for me.”

While Mead’s loved ones are fortunate to have an experienced teacher in the family, she says any parent can become one in a pinch. They can help children learn cursive writing or turn working in the garden into a lesson about plants.

“Adults underestimate themselves and make things more difficult,” she said. “The idea is to break things down to their simplest form for kids.”

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