Lori Schmidt, better known as "Miss Lori," teaches piano to dozens of children. Every year, Schmidt and her students gather at Steinway Hall in Plano for a recital. The concert room fills with music from young pianists in their Sunday best.

Instead of canceling the event, Schmidt took a different approach, one that encourages creativity.

With her own children's help, Schmidt recorded a video asking her students to upload their recital songs to an invite-only Facebook group.

“It just kind of dawned on me that I need to do this for them so they have something to work for,” she said.

The first week of May was deemed recital week, and each student uploaded a video with their own flare.

Addie, with the help of her family, decorated her piano with lights and an American flag as a tribute to essential workers. In another video, her brother turned off the lights and the two jammed to the music, wearing glow sticks. 

“I had to do something so they could have a sense of closure while performing it,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt normally gives out gifts at the time of recitals and she didn’t let a pandemic stop her. Parents and students pulled up to Brinker Elementary to receive curbside pickup from their teacher. 

“The kids were hanging out the sunroof, and they decorated their cars. It was so fun,” Schmidt said.

Teaching virtually comes with its own technical challenges. But Schmidt said she still feels close to her students. 

“I feel like I'm still with them. It sounds crazy, but this is just as good to me,” she said.

Teaching over video has gone so well in fact, Schmidt feels confident enough to take on another student or two.

“I'm seriously inspired now. I have nieces and nephews in Minnesota and I'm like 'I don't' know why I can't teach them,’” she said.

Schmidt said her connection with students during stay-at-home orders showed her the importance of learning from trusted educators. Just spending half an hour over video conference makes a difference, according to Schmidt. 

“I didn't realize how important a teacher could be in these kids' lives.”

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