By Ron Warnick
QCS Senior Writer 

Virtual ceremony


November 18, 2020

Video screen capture

San Jon sixth-grade student Rayna Sena gives the lyrics to "God Bless the USA" in American Sign Language as part of the district's Veterans Day video tribute posted online last week.

Students and teachers at San Jon Municipal Schools managed to hold their annual Veterans Day program last week despite ongoing restrictions due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The state's ban on public gatherings of more than five people made usual ceremonies for the holiday impossible, including VFW Post 2525 in Tucumcari.

But the San Jon FFA on Veterans Day uploaded a 12-minute YouTube video stitched together from small presentations at the school and students' homes via the Zoom videoconferencing program. Dozens of students participated in the program.

The video, which may be viewed on, shows:

• Sixth-graders communicating the lyrics to Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the USA" song in American Sign Language;

• First-graders showing handmade thank-you cards to veterans;

• Sixth- through eight-grade agriculture students presenting a history of U.S. agriculture during wartime;

• Eighth-graders showing in one word what veterans mean to them;

• Seventh-graders presenting a Veterans Day poem via Zoom;

• The school's National Honor Society members presenting an empty-table ceremony that symbolizes the nation's MIAs.

The video concludes with a recording of Whitney Houston's version of "The Star Spangled Banner."

San Jon teachers Annie McCauley and Jaree Elliott organized the programs for the video. McCauley said a telephone interview last week the district usually hosts a Veterans Day ceremony the evening of the holiday, including inviting area veterans to the event.

"Since we can't have anything in person this year, I thought, 'If the kids can do their presentations, we can put it online,'" McCauley recalled.

Elliott credited McCauley for finding another way to honor veterans.

"Annie's been really creative in how we put our regular activities back in for the kids," Elliott said. "This was her brainstorm: 'Why don't we do it virtually?' It was a creative idea by her; I'm glad she thought of it.

"We've got to find ways to keep things we think are important even if it's going to be different - for the kids and the veterans," Elliott added.

McCauley said the initial experience with remote learning during the fall gave them an advantage to put the program online.

"We've been on Zoom since the beginning of the school year," she said. "We've had to figure out how to record it correctly. As teachers, we all had to figure it out."

Elliott said production for the Veterans Day program began when the district still was teaching students via remote learning only. A few weeks ago, the district was approved for small-group, in-person classes after submitting a reopening plan to the state Public Education Department as a micro-district of fewer than 100 students.

McCauley said the video was no substitute for a live program at the school, but area residents appreciated it anyway.

"Our little community is really tight-knit," she said. "I'm sure they enjoyed seeing the kids able to do something, even if it was virtually. It's a way for the community to feel kike they're part of these kids' lives and see what they're up to."

Elliott said she saw complimentary messages on social media about the video, and she also received similar texts. The Quay County Sheriff's Office also shared the video on Facebook.

Elliott said the annual program doesn't benefit only veterans.

"If students aren't taught, they don't realize how important veterans are and how important it is to honor them," she said. "San Jon Schools does a really good job teaching how important that is."

Though Elliott said the district's usual Veterans Day program likely will resume next year, this year's experience probably will give it a new twist.

"I think next year we'll be doing a lot more livestreaming of everything," she said. "I would imagine we'll be livestreaming the Veterans Day show next year."


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