School changes and challenges bring unique opportunities for blessing and community
Ask a teacher what this school year has been like for them, and it will likely sound similar to fourth-grade teacher Sarah Herren, “This has been a crazy year – a year full of added responsibilities, new protocols, extra worry, and so many unknowns!” Between a pandemic and a school-wide move to different learning spaces, the Lower and Upper School teachers have had to acclimate to maintaining their high level of rigor and relationship in what is essentially a new context in the last three months.
But what is unchanged is the love and community at the core of WC. A few weeks into this semester, Director of Intervention Services Jennifer Denorme had several conversations with teachers in which she realized that their time for planning and lunch was lacking because of new protocols and class structures and volunteer limitations. Denorme reached out to the district directors and staff to ask if any of them would be willing to give of their time to cover a recess or lunch duty, providing a much-needed break for Lower School teachers. She explained, “The response was amazing. Every single director and district staff person stepped up to support our teachers in this way.”
So on any given day, you might find WC’s theatre director David O’Roark hosting a jump rope competition or find Head of School Troy McIntosh engaging third-graders in deep conversations during their lunchtime. After describing the challenges of this year, Herren also speaks to the blessing of WC’s leadership, “It has been an encouragement to have the directors see the need to help us…the gift of time truly is something that we value and we greatly appreciate that they see the need and are willing to help us out!”
Another major source of school and teacher support is WC’s Parent Teacher Fellowship (PTF). Every school has some sort of parent-teacher organization, but none quite like WC’s PTF. The PTF is not a fundraising organization but a small group of volunteers who purpose to facilitate fellowship, encourage faculty and staff, and engage WC’s community through service. Each year, they recognize birthdays, write random notes of encouragement, deliver regular treats, provide special meals, and give Christmas gift cards to WC’s faculty and staff. Though they are unable to host some of their annual community-building events because of restrictions, the PTF is still highly active in supporting the faculty and staff through all the stresses of this year.
One significant project the PTF has undertaken this year is transforming the teacher workspace in the K-2 building. Erika Irvin, a current WC mom of two and has served on the PTF leadership team for the last two years. She explains, “We all anticipated that this school year would be challenging, but I didn’t fully realize just how challenging it would be for teachers.” When she heard from fellow PTF member Vicki Miller that the teachers’ space in the K-2 building was in need of updates, she moved at the chance to bless the teachers this way. Irvin sought input from teachers as to what would be best in their designated lounge space, and under the blessing of Principal Jim Parrish, started working on the space with help from several other WC parents.
This group of parents gave of their time and resources to completely transform the teacher workspace. They painted and replaced the flooring, drywall, ceiling tiles, and baseboards. They also added much-needed cabinets and storage space, along with a coffee and snack bar. “We want this space to meet the teachers’ practical needs and also provide a quiet space for rest and reprieve from the day-to-day demands,” said Irvin.
What may look like simple, small acts of kindness, carries far greater significance. Whether it’s a short note of encouragement, a candy bar in the teacher mailboxes, or thirty minutes of time in the school day, these are just snapshots of a much larger picture. That larger picture is that WC continues to be a committed school community of believers rooted in love for the purpose of developing the mind of Christ in students. And that is no small thing.