TAYLOR COUNTY—After weeks of being separated from their students, teachers and school personnel from some of the area’s schools came together to let the community’s youth know that they were missed and cared for.
Educators and staff members from Anna Jarvis Elementary School (AJES), Taylor County Middle School (TCMS) and Grafton High School (GHS) came together on Thursday morning in a heartwarming display of togetherness to see the familiar faces they have missed so dearly throughout the state-wide quarantine period, during their teachers’ parade.
According to AJES Teacher Becky Lake, the idea came about after seeing pictures and posts from fellow educators in the southern part of the state.
“I have some friends around the Charleston area, who are also educators, and I saw a video of their teacher parade and the big smiles on the faces of their students. I knew this would be a way to reach out to our students while keeping faithful to the social distancing orders,” she revealed.
The idea was brought to the attention of the school’s administration by a few staff members, and in no time, a plan was put in place.
“We advertised the idea of the parade on our social media sites and invited TCMS and GHS staff to participate with us. We developed a route that would pass several students’ houses and have several places that people could park to be able to participate,” explained AJES Assistant Principal Shelly Stead, who organized the event.
Once an interest was shown in the event, the Grafton Police Department was called upon to not only get in on the celebration, but to help assist in safely navigating the parade throughout the area.
“It was great seeing all of the teachers and staff participating in the parade. You could see the excitement on the kids’ faces as we drove by,” said Grafton Police Chief Bobby Beltner. “I am so glad that the Grafton Police Department was able to participate in such a great event.”
The parade left AJES at approximately 10:10 a.m., and made its way through the area, and as approximately 30-40 teachers and school employees passed by students, they honked their horns and cheered. Some of them even adorned their vehicles with signs and other decorations.
AJES Principal Heather Sinclair said that the two-hour parade was the perfect way to kick off their Spring Break, which would have started on Thursday.
“We picked that date for the parade since it was the first day of our Spring Break, and we just wanted to let the students know we miss them and hope they are doing ok,” added Stead.
Many of the teachers voiced that while the event was fun, it meant more to them then they knew it would have.
“What I didn’t know was how therapeutic it would be for me and my colleagues. While I continue to connect with my students via email and phone calls, it’s just not the same as that face to face contact or that daily hug I would get as they entered my classroom every morning,” Lake expressed.
AJES Teacher Leslie Cochran echoed Lake’s sentiment saying, “It was a very healing and uplifting experience for us and the students. It helped to fill a void that we’ve been feeling during this quarantine.”
“As teachers, we’ve been communicating with our students, but it is so much better to see them in person,” Cochran added. “We also saw a lot of older people who are quarantined, and I think they also enjoyed parade.”
Lisa Phillips, also a teacher at AJES, said that the trip around town went very well, although she believes the weather put a damper on student turnout.
“I was hoping to see more students but loved seeing the ones that came out,” she voiced. “I think we all miss being teachers right now! Although we are doing what we can from home, it’s just not the same. It was so nice to get out and do something special for our kids!”
Although it was the teachers who were trying to cheer up their teachers, they were met with love in return from their students.
“Their smiles, waves and signs made our hearts so happy,” shared Lake. “It’s been very difficult to go from spending seven hours daily with our students, to only being able to communicate via technology. We can only hope and pray that we will still be able to safely return to our classrooms by the end of the year. Our students need that closure, and we need our students.”
Taylor County Board of Education Member Clark Sinclair says he was happy to see so many staff members from Taylor County Schools come out to be in the parade.
“I am proud of the staff and it shows how dedicated they are to the students,” he noted. “I think this is something we all needed.”
In fact, the event was so successful that Stead revealed the staffers have expressed their interest in holding another parade later in the month.
“It was a wonderful way for the staff of Anna Jarvis Elementary, and the other schools, to connect with our students and families while we are not having regular school together,” imparted H. Sinclair. “We very much miss our kids and families and were so glad to see them.”