When second-grade teacher Tammy Melki said goodbye to her students ahead of spring break, she gave them each a quick hug, fully expecting to see them again in just over a week. Unfortunately, like other schools all across the country, the ongoing spread of the novel coronavirus led Settler's Point Elementary School to close. As a result, Melki and many other teachers have been missing their students, so to stay connected, teachers across the country have hosted parades through local neighborhoods.
"We had no idea that we were going to have our classes ripped away from us, so to speak, for so long," Melki tells Romper about the impact the ongoing global health pandemic has had on her classroom in Gilbert, Arizona. "We wanted to really convey how much we miss the students and how much we care about them and how we're thinking about them over this time that we're separated."
Teachers and staff from Settler's Point Elementary school decorated their cars with signs and words of encouragement before slowly driving through students' neighborhoods last week in a roughly two-hour parade spearheaded by fourth-grade teacher Stephanie Usrey.
"Our school is a very close knit community," Usrey tells Romper. "And all the teachers that I was messaging with [during the closure] were all feeling isolated, and so I just thought this would create that sense of community for the teachers as well as kids." In the end, nearly 30 cars — each one belonging to a different teacher of staff member — participated in the parade.
But Usrey and her colleagues at Settler's Point aren't the only teachers to have hosted parades through students' neighborhoods recently. In fact, Usrey says it was a video of one such parade shared over Facebook by a former colleague living in another state that inspired her to organize a parade of Settler's Point teachers and staff.
Also last week, teachers from Val Vista Lakes Elementary, another elementary school in Gilbert, Arizona, held their own parade. Teachers from North Elementary School also paraded through Noblesville, Indiana, to wave at students and parents while still following recommendations for social distancing, CNN reported. And in Andover and Clinton, Massachusetts, teachers drove in decorated cars along their schools' bus route in their own teachers' parade, according to a local NBC News affiliate. Similar teacher parades have also been reported in Texas, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to name only a few.
For Usrey and the rest of the Settler's Point teachers and support staff, the hope was to let students and families know that while they may be out of sight for the moment, they're certainly not out of mind.
"When you're a teacher, it's not just a job, it's definitely part of your life," Usrey tells Romper. "You just miss your little people and just to see their faces and to let them know that we're still there and we're thinking about them is just so important to all of us."
And while the event was mainly meant to raise students' spirits, both Usrey and Melki tell Romper that teachers and staff came away from it with their own spirits uplifted. "When we drove down the street there were so many families out with big posters and signs waving at us and jumping up and down," Melki says, adding that even people who didn't have children came out to wave and cheer. "I cannot even tell you how many times I got tears in my eyes seeing all the support that we have through our community."
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