COVID-19 tech helping 4-year-old heart transplant patient stay connected to class in Pinellas County

LARGO, Fla. (WFLA) – Teachers at Anona Elementary are working hard to make sure one of their students is able to participate in Pre-K while he’s recovering from a heart transplant.

4-year-old Sean Walsh was ready to start Pre-K this year, but when his health took a turn for the worst, his teachers were determined to make the best of the situation.

The teachers said it’s a positive outcome of coronavirus because the new technology is helping keep this family connected to a sense of normalcy.

“Everyone says hi, Sean!” said Walsh’s teacher Julie Nibert as the class of 9 kids waved to him through Zoom on the computer.

Even though he may have beenhooked up to wires and monitors at Shands Hospital in Gainesville Walsh has been able to talk to his friends and teachers through the computer while recovering from surgery.

Julie Nibert said she’s been teaching 20 years and doesn’t think she and her teaching partner Jennifer Bryant could have pulled off signing, playing, and learning with Walsh the past few weeks without the new technology they have in their class because of COVID-19.

“We had the training and had to learn all the virtual stuff, so when he was in the hospital we said why don’t we just invite him,” said Nibert.

Walsh’s mom told 8 On Your Side he’s begging to go back to class in person, but due to health scares, he’ll likely remain virtual the rest of the school year.

Nibert says Walsh’s classmates love having Walsh in class and so do the teachers who say Sean is learning, smiling, and is emotionally connected to his class.

“It’s so heartwarming that he’s part of the class still, the kids talk about him, draw him pictures, it’s really emotional. I think the kids will remember this the rest of their lives,” said Nibert.

A few weeks ago Walsh’s class sent him books, puzzles, and money for mom to eat out while Sean remains in the hospital and plan to send another care package soon.

To donate to Sean’s care package you can call Anona Elemntery’s main office at (727) 588-4730 or email Sean’s teacher Julie Nibert at

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