EDMONTON -- It’s 8 a.m., and even though classes at Esther Starkman school are cancelled, Cherry Vanderhoek is hard at work.

“In fact I feel like I am even busier than when I was at the school,” Vanderhoek said. 

All because the Grade 9 teacher has made it her mission to keep her students on task as long as the COVID-19 pandemic endures.

“I have tonnes to do. Often I find its 8 o’clock at night I’m still doing emails to kids, and I’m thinking huh, this work week has changed. But I’m loving it!” 

From live video math sessions, to sending out daily workouts, and even challenging her students to make cooking videos, the phys-ed teacher has challenged herself to stay on task and keep her kids excited about learning. 

She’s also gone well outside her comfort zone by starting a podcast that offers tips and advice for students joining Esther Starkman and others moving on to high school. 

“Welcome to this episode of the Husky Howler podcast! Awooooo!” Vanderhoek shouts into her laptop in her south side kitchen. 

She interviews teachers as well as students and the number of listeners is growing. 

“I tell my guests they are world wide celebrities. I have people from Germany, Turkey, Chile, all over the United States and Canada. Its pretty cool,” Vanderhoek said. 

But as the school year comes to a close, her focus has been on saying goodbye to the Grade 9’s, who will go without a formal graduation ceremony. 

Its a big deal she says, for students and teacher. She’s taught some of them since Grade 2.

“Myself and a couple other colleagues, we put together a virtual grad. I cant wait because on Friday, it will be posted and released. Kids get a farewell movie with speeches so at least they get something and that was really important to me” 

An emotional moment that could be the subject of her next podcast.