On March 12, 2020, Jordan Saez’s third-grade students ate donuts for breakfast and enjoyed a Math Madness party, a play on the March Madness college basketball tournament that was set to begin in a few days.
The class had no idea that would be their last day in school for the 2019-20 school year.
On March 13, Gov. John Carney closed all Delaware public schools for two weeks so districts could prepare for the potential spread of COVID-19. Carney later extended the order through May 15, and finally, through the remainder of the year.
During remote-learning planning workshops that spring, Saez, an H.O. Brittingham Elementary Spanish Immersion teacher, learned she couldn’t read and record for students a book written by someone other than herself due to copyright laws.
“I was discouraged, so I went upstairs and wrote the book,” she said. “It was taking storytime from them, and I thought that was the cruelest thing to do.”
Saez always dreamed of being a teacher and author, and the timing was perfect. True to her teaching roots, she aimed to publish the book in both English and Spanish.
“I was inspired to write it because I was sad my third-graders and I left school and didn’t come back,” she said. “I was blessed with this great opportunity, support and the inspiration to write.”
To gather ideas, Saez asked students about their memories of the last day in school, so she knew what all grades were doing. Everything in the book actually happened, she said, from the birth of a baby chick to the principal singing and playing “Happy Birthday” on his guitar for a student.
“We were just caught doing amazing things together on our last day, because those are the things we normally do, and we missed it a lot,” the book concludes. “All of us learned that we can do hard things, so we can take that with us anywhere we go – online, in the classroom, and into the future.”
While Saez said it didn’t take long to write “The Last Day of School?,” editing and proofreading took months and involved professionals from several countries, including a Sudanese editor, a Spanish translator from France, and an elementary teacher from Mexico who proofread the translation.
Her Pakistani illustrator had never been in an American school, so Saez described classrooms, sent photos to the artist and reviewed multiple drafts until drawings represented a typically diverse American school.
Saez plans to host a community literary event for elementary schools sometime after Oct. 30, when the book will be available on Amazon. Her students from last year will each receive a book.
“We never got to have our goodbye party,” she said. “We had 80 kids on a Zoom goodbye call, rather than the normal memories we get to make on the last day of school.”
Saez said she’s already written her next book and is working on choosing an illustrator.
“It’s definitely about school; that’s all I can say right now,” she smiled. “It was emotional to write ‘The Last Day of School?.’ I will never forget March 12, 2020.”