Kelly Isenogle


At a time when we may not be able to see our loved ones, letters — remember letters? — can say a lot.

Kelly Isenogle, a third-grade teacher at Rock Bridge Elementary School, remembers their power.

On Monday, when the decision to temporarily close Columbia Public Schools was yet to be announced, Isenogle thought about how to help her class process all that was unknown about the coronavirus.

She decided her students would write to residents at Lenoir Woods, a Columbia retirement community — something other schools were doing as community projects.

The students introduced themselves, wrote something encouraging and positive and asked questions in a conversational style.

“They acknowledged that, ‘We heard you weren’t able to have visitors now. We thought we could keep you company with our letter,’” Isenogle said.

Students asked questions like, “I enjoy ‘this type’ of book. What kind of books do you like to read in your free time?” she said.

One student wrote, “My teacher keeps telling me to wash my hands, drink lots of water and eat my vegetables, so I hope you’re doing those things.”

The idea began when Isenogle spoke to a friend whose grandmother had just moved to Lenoir. The friend found out that because of concerns about the spread of COVID-19, she could no longer visit her grandmother. The visit, the friend said, was the highlight of her grandmother’s week.

Isenogle said she wanted the letters to be positive and uplifting to the residents. She wants to give her students opportunities to grow social and emotional skills, to become “more wonderful human beings.”

Students also drew on the backs of the 20 letters — but with a challenge. Isenogle told the kids they would be photocopied on single-color paper to assure they were germ-free. The kids were able to keep the originals.

This provided a fun way to learn how to draw using negative space and without many colors, Isenogle said.

Like many, Isenogle will stay home for the time being. But, she said, she hopes the students were able to find value in doing things without instant gratification.

“In our heart, it feels good,” she said. “When we’re dealing with tough things, the best thing to do is something kind for someone else.”

For more COVID-19 related news, see our section dedicated to COVID-19 updates.
  • Education beat reporter at the Columbia Missourian, fall 2019. Studying News Reporting at MU. Reach me at or the newsroom at 882-5720.

  • Elizabeth Brixey is a city editor at the Columbia Missourian. She oversees coverage of education. She can be reached at (573) 882-2632 and

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