With schools closed, many news headlines highlighted high school seniors finishing their journeys from home, but even first-grade students grappled with wrapping up their year online. Teachers, such as Thomas Jefferson Elementary’s Mrs. Laura Bryan, had to instantly transform into virtual classrooms. Now, with classes finishing, she had to find a new way to offer her students some excitement at the end of the year as they prepare to move on to second grade.
She and her husband Cliff Bryan, Manager at Benjamin F. Edwards and Co., already had a tradition of donating books to classrooms and schools across Porter County. This year, she expanded the project and packed goodie bags full of three different books, writing and drawing journals, Crayola Markers, plush toys, pencils, bubble wands, character trait awards, and a personal note for each student. Joined by Teacher Aide Shirla Hawkins and equipped with masks and gloves, she passed out the gifts in a drive-thru giveaway right at the school.
“It’s such an odd time and the kids never really had the chance to get any closure,” Bryan said. “They’ve worked so hard, and I really wanted to celebrate their accomplishments and give them some extra gifts and supplies. They need to be able to be a kid, enjoy life, and know that they’re still a part of the Thomas Jefferson Elementary family.”
All of the materials, books, and toys inside of the gift bags were donated by Cliff, who was excited to see almost every family in the class drive by.
“I came from a large household where everything was about the kids and family,” he said. “With Laura and me, everything’s been about school. This is part of her family and it’s her passion. These first graders deserve every little bit of help they can get.”
Laura called special attention to how her students and their families adapted to an eLearning environment.
“My students, as well as their parents and grandparents, have all worked together so well,” she said. “I’ve been in touch with each family, and we’ve been so open about what works, and when it doesn’t we figure it out. We meet on Zoom or do whatever it takes to make it work.”
During the school year, Hawkins spends many of her mornings outside greeting kids as they come in for the day. When the families pulled around to collect their gift bags, she knew who many of them were just by seeing the front of their cars.
“We spent so much time with the children, but the year was cut so short,” Hawkins said. “It’s just great to see their faces and smiles again.”
Many of the students prepared gifts of their own for Laura and Hawkins, such as flowers, notes, and decorated mugs.
“TJE is such a great place,” Laura said. “I’m glad to be here and be a part of it.”
Approval code: 2020-1231 Expiration date:5/31/2023