WARREN, Mich. - Junior Austin Nielsen played Senator Max Evergreen in the recent De La Salle Collegiate stage production of “Nice Work If You Can Get It.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic closed schools, he was ready to appear in Regina High School’s March production of “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee,” a musical comedy.
He was to play Leaf Coneybear, a boy home-schooled by hippie parents.
“I practice my lines when I have a chance,” Nielsen said in a Zoom call last week. “Leaf is a young kid who really doesn’t belong at the spelling bee and only got there because the winners of the previous spelling bee couldn’t make it. He has severe (attention deficit disorder) and is a really fun and goofy character whose hobby is making his own clothes.”
Academically, Nielsen is enrolled in De La Salle’s prestigious International Baccalaureate classes, and praises his teachers who, as he says, “are in sync and know who is doing what and when.”
He is used to submitting homework during class, but now uploads assignments to his folder in Google Classroom. Currently, Nielsen is taking IB courses in literature, biology, the theory of knowledge, Spanish, history, business, and math.
His math teacher, Catherine Leix, provides video explanations of complex problems. Nielsen does the homework in a notebook, and then scans the work and converts the documents before submitting it.
Nielsen explained that his teachers have assigned times for Google Meets, a video conferencing application, and thus far, no two classes are meeting concurrently.
“There has definitely been a distance-learning curve,” he said. “But, if we are confused, teachers are right there in Google Classroom and can add a comment.”
Nielsen and his brother Nicholas, a freshman, have developed a routine of waking by 10 a.m., and working until 3-4 p.m. Both boys attended St. Germaine Grade School in Saint Clair Shores.
“I have projects to work on for IB, and I go back to that task after dinner,” Nielsen said.
He is working on a Spanish video, as well as a math project video.
“I think the faculty, staff, and students are doing an amazing job during this extremely odd experience,” Nielsen said. “I feel this has made everyone figure out that things do happen, and we have to be able to come together.”