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How one Arlington family is making online learning fun

"This is a challenging time in a challenging environment. And we've got to do what we can to make it engaging and fun and enjoyable as possible," said Seth Ressl.

ARLINGTON, Texas — An Arlington family, with children required to start their public school year online, is making the best of the pandemic-caused situation with a heavy dose of school spirit - even if that spirit is temporarily trapped at home.

"When we were thrust into this environment in March, we were very unprepared," said Kerri Ressl of the Arlington ISD school year that ended with students learning remotely in the spring.

"I think like everybody we're sort of navigating these waters day by day and in some cases hour by hour," added her husband Seth Ressl.

Their daughter Grace is a sophomore at Arlington High School and their son Mason is in the 4th grade at Duff Elementary. Both of those schools are in Arlington ISD, which won't start classes in-person until at least late September.

But mom and dad work at UT Arlington. Seth is the senior director of involvement and engagement in student affairs. Kerri is the director of organizational excellence at the UTA Libraries. So, they decided for a bit of excellent organizing at home.

"There was maybe a little bit of eye-rolling," Seth joked of their kids' reaction to their decision.

They decided their online learning environment needed a name. They chose to call it the Ressl Online Learning Academy. 

They needed a mascot. They chose the alliterative name of the Ressl Raptors. The kids helped design their own school-spirit t-shirts, complete with a Raptor silhouette. And they even posed for a front yard photo, each of them holding up their school hand sign: a claw that looks a bit like a TCU horned frog.

Credit: The Ressl Family

"We wanted to provide just some fun. Bring some levity to the situation," Kerri said in a Tuesday Zoom interview. "What a way to take a tough situation at its face value and try to just put some fun things around it."

Both students have their own dedicated workspace at home, and are learning with an expectation that that school is supposed to be fun, whether you're in class or in your own bedroom.

"This is a challenging time in a challenging environment in a very different space and we've got to do what we can to make it engaging and fun and enjoyable as possible," Seth said.

Credit: The Ressl Family

But, in our Tuesday morning conversation, there were two people missing from the Zoom call. 

Grace and Mason weren't available. They were on day two of their online classes. Schoolwork took precedence.

"They're both currently on Zoom calls doing some classwork," Seth said.

Credit: Ressl Family

"We're not gonna lie. There's going to be challenging days. There's gonna be tears, probably with them and us," Kerri Ressl said with a laugh. "But we are prepared for that and we just know that every day is a new day."