CENTERVILLE, Ind. – It may not have been an original idea, but it appears to have made a lot of people exchange smiles amid the recent shutdown of schools and just about everything else due to the coronavirus situation.
“I think the biggest reason for wanting to make it happen was because I had heard so many of my co-workers talk about how much they just missed their students’ smiles, and this was a way to meet that need for us adults, while also reminding our students that we love and miss them too,” said Rose Hamilton Elementary first grade teacher Kendra Biava. “With so many things being uncertain right now, the kids needed to be shown that the adults they used to see every day miss them just as much or maybe more than they miss us. It was just a great mental health boost for everyone involved.”
What happened was a parade of teachers, staff and administrators from the Centerville-Abington School Corporation hit the streets in the Eastern Indiana district on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.
“I saw another school district do this on Facebook and loved the idea,” said Ashley Woods, who is an EISS (Early Intervention for School Success) aid for kindergarten.
“When you work with these kids every day you develop a relationship with them,” Woods continued. “These unforeseen circumstances made it even more difficult, as the kids were just uprooted from their daily routine. It was honestly an emotional roller coaster. Seeing the excitement on the kid’s faces made it all worth it. The homemade signs with messages to the teachers and staff also made it difficult to fight back the tears.”
Just a short drive from the Richmond campus, Indiana University East has a large connection to the community in Centerville with several teachers and parents of students.
“I wanted to do the parade to cheer the kids up,” said Alyssa Davis, a 2000 graduate who teaches first grade at Rose Hamilton. “I was humbled by everyone’s reactions. It was heartwarming to see the kids and even some older people step out of their house smiling and waving. The kids absolutely loved it. They had made signs and did sidewalk chalk art for us.”
Parent Jason Saylor, who has two children in the system, is also a 2000 graduate of IU East.
“They enjoyed the parade a lot,” Saylor said. “They do miss their friends and the everyday normalcy we took for granted. My third grader’s teacher was part of the parade and she really enjoyed seeing her again. Thank you to all of those that were involved.”
Rose Hamilton second grade teacher Savannah Thomas rode in the parade with a well-known member of the school staff.
“The parade was a way for us to connect with our kids in a safe way,” the 2019 IU East graduate said. “I rode with our facility service dog, Peachy, and her handler, Mrs. Heaston.”
“We all were overwhelmed with joy during the parade,” Thomas added. “It was the happiest any of us had been since the quarantine business began. It made my heart happy to see my kids, if only for a little bit.”
First grade teacher Mikenzie Drew was thrilled with the response from the students.
“The reactions from our kids were beautiful,” the 2016 IU East graduate said. “So many squeals, big waves, shouting names, sweet signs, and chalk art. It was also so humbling to see parents, guardians, caretakers, and our wonderful community as a whole stand with students in support. Many people pulled over for us, let us through stoplights and stop signs as we made our way through town.”
Drew was excited to return to her hometown, after teaching in another school system for three years.
“I feel so grateful to work in a community that stands behind its teachers,” she said. “I miss my kids and my classroom every day, but there was a great peace in getting to see so many of them that day.”