Bethany Hicks has a unique perspective on the Covid-19 pandemic: not only has it drastically impacted her own life, but because she works alongside Grand Rapids Public School at Stocking Elementary, she has also seen the many ways that this season has impacted students, parents, school staff, and the mentors from Crossroads that she works with.
The biggest thing that Bethany has seen, across each of these groups, has been the way that this pandemic has shaken up all of the "normal" ways of doing things—for better and worse—and has caused the need for new, creative solutions to meet these unique problems.
For Stocking teachers, this year presented obstacles that they have never had to face before: the lines between home and school were suddenly blurred as they found themselves teaching an entire class of students on Zoom, often with their own children at home as well. The chaos of this season led to increased teacher burnout and turnover, but Bethany also saw it lead to new ways of approaching teaching. When classes were fully online, teachers needed to capture their students' attention in very chaotic environments, so they began to approach learning differently: using more videos and images, encouraging students to move around if that helped them pay attention better, and teaching students about their emotional and social needs, as well as ways to keep their brains focused. Even now that classes are back in person, Bethany has seen teachers continue to incorporate these techniques into their lessons, to be inclusive of the many different learning styles represented.
Mentors from Crossroads also had to find new, creative ways to connect with their students. Bethany saw many of them go the extra mile: one mentor recreated her student's favorite board game so that it could work vertically, with push pins as the game pieces, so that the two of them could play it together over Zoom. Others wrote letters to their students or dropped gifts off on their porches, to show them love. One mentor would stand on his student's front porch and talk with him through his front window, so that they could still get some socially distanced face-to-face time. The dedication that each of these mentors displayed, even when it was more difficult to build connections with their students, helped each child to feel loved and valued.
In the same way as the teachers and mentors, Bethany had to take a step back and reevaluate the way she'd done her job in the past. This past season offered her a great opportunity to listen to the community, to hear what their true needs are, and to adjust accordingly. She was able to ask parents and teachers, "We've always done this, but what do you really need? How can Crossroads serve you best?" It can be so easy, when things are going well, to just continue to do things the way they've always been done. But this past year and a half has reminded Bethany of the power of listening and adjusting.
This time of shaking also helped Bethany to recognize the things that are deeply needed, the things that were deeply missed last year, that she wants to do even better. One example she brought up was the Christmas store, where students are able to buy presents for their family members. It was deeply missed last year, and everyone is very excited to be able to have it again this year!
Another one of the big ways that Bethany's own work was directly impacted was that her relationships with students' parents really grew. In past years, she would mainly only interact with students. But in the height of the pandemic, almost every interaction would be through their parents. So she began to get to know them more deeply, and was able to check in on them, in addition to their children: taking the time to ask them how they were doing, and if they needed anything.
When asked how she has seen God at work during this past season, Bethany shared that it's been a very humbling season. There were moments where she looked at all of the need around her and truly felt helpless. "You wish you could just wave a magic wand and fix it," she shared. It's so humbling, to realize you can't fix it. You're not the savior here. Instead, the only thing she could do was go to her knees in prayer, placing students and families in God's hands. She chose to surrender and trust that He was working, even when she couldn't see it. She's had to choose, over and over again, to make Jesus the center, remembering that He's the one who moves mountains.
This past year, Bethany has also seen unique opportunities to love the people around her. During the height of the pandemic, so many people were at the ends of themselves, and their desperation caused them to realize their need for a savior: their need for something bigger than themselves. She noticed that people's hearts were so much more open to talking about God. They needed a peace the world couldn't give them, and were willing to share about that.
As her relationships with parents deepened, and since they weren't in a school environment, Bethany was able to speak openly with them about God and their own faith walks. Some parents watched Crossroads' livestreams from home, and one mom even dedicated her children in a small gathering with Bethany present!
She also saw God at work in her relationships with school staff. Stocking teachers and staff members know that Bethany works for a church, and so, if one of them was going through difficult situation, they knew that they could come to Bethany and ask for prayer, even if they weren't a believer.
Lastly, in this very polarized time in which we live, God has shown Bethany the beauty of listening first. She admits how easy it is to make assumptions about others, especially when they hold to a different viewpoint than her own, but she has been learning to listen first, instead of jumping to conclusions: to sit with people and have difficult conversations, even about things they disagree on. There's such beauty in listening to understand, instead of simply to win an argument.
We're so grateful to Bethany for sharing her story with us! If you'd like to connect with her, or learn more about her work at Stocking, you can email her at