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With Social Distancing, Kala Rembert Stays Close To Those She Cares About

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Kayla Rembert helps pass out meals for Birmingham City School students while volunteering at Hayes K-8 School. (Marvin Gentry, For The Birmingham Times)
By Je’Don Holloway Talley
For the Birmingham Times

Social distancing doesn’t mean Kala Rembert can’t find ways to help and inspire others during the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.

Rembert has been an educator with Birmingham City Schools (BCS) for the past 27 years, including being a second grade teacher at Barrett Elementary in East Birmingham for the past 14. When schools closed in March to reduce the spread of COVID-19, administrators said they would continue to serve lunches—and Rembert was among the volunteers who helped feed students until the program was discontinued this month. (Birmingham city officials recently announced the restart of the meal program via a partnership making it possible to serve meals at recreation centers.)

Because of social distancing, Rembert, 54, makes an extra effort to ensure that she’s not too distant from those she cares about.

“I do a Facebook ministry, so I speak with friends, my family, and the parents of my students daily. I have to reach out and touch them,” she said. “I’m an only child, and my mother recently passed a year ago, so I also keep in touch with my

Kayla Rembert helps pass out meals for Birmingham City School students while volunteering at Hayes K-8 School. (Marvin Gentry, For The Birmingham Times)

children and grandchildren.

“As for the parents of my students, I send out a memo on Class Dojo, [a parent-teacher-and-student app], and tell them to let me know if there’s anything they need,” she continued. “I give them something to do weekly with the children and things they can be working on. This week, I’ve asked [parents] to work on counting money, telling time, and [drawing] geometry figures [with the students].”

Rembert works with curriculum instructors and teachers through Zoom, a cloud-based video-conferencing service, for collaborative meetings to give lessons while school is out.

“We also make ourselves available for the parents. They can reach us at any given time between 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. My [students’] parents have my number, so they know they can call or Dojo me anytime and I’ll get back to them with what they need,” said Rembert, who was among the first to volunteer for a school meal program to make sure students continued to receive lunch when schools closed due to COVID-19 in March.

Rembert said she is not afraid to be out of the house: “I’m a firm believer that whatever God has for me is for me. The kids come first. It’s all about the kids … and me being out there and taking a chance to help out. That’s what it’s all about. It’s what I love. My passion is for the kids.”

The Miles College graduate and South East Lake resident grew up in downtown Birmingham and attended Phillips High School, now known as Phillips Academy. She has two children, Christopher, 32, and Kaynessa, 27, and seven grandchildren, ages 3 to 14.

With schools closed, Rembert said people are being seen in a different light: “It takes a village. We all have a role, and it takes all of us to make sure we keep our kids in a safe and nurturing environment. May God continue to bless us all over the country.”

Avoiding community contact outside her home hasn’t been particularly difficult, Rembert said.

“I wouldn’t say it’s been hard, but not being able to come and go as I please has its ups and downs,” she said. “I can’t go to the cleaners or visit my grandkids. I’d rather be at work than in these four corners right now.”

The upside: “I’ve got a lot of housework done,” Rembert said.

To read more volunteer stories, click one of the links below. 

Kikstart Inc.: Reducing Hunger For Children and Families

Feeding Avondale: Parents Begin Movement to Support Students

Volunteer Wanda Hines on Creating a Nourishing Environment