The last people students from Theodore Jones Elementary School expected to see this summer were their teachers.
Regardless, that’s exactly what school administrators are intentionally doing this summer — taking school to the neighborhoods.
Teacher Melissa Spence said the idea first came to her months ago when a group of teachers were together in a car and happened upon a group of students playing.
From that, the group started talking about what it would be like to be able to say hi to their students during the summer months. Spence said there’s a disconnect during that time.
She said she liked that idea, but being the teacher she is, she wanted something with a little more intention and interaction.
The first-grade teacher said she took the idea to Principal Tammy Woosley, who thought it was a good idea and helped provide a little more organization to the initiative.
Spence said she put together a graphic and promoted it through the school’s Facebook page and drove the streets starting at 10 a.m. June 28 for the first time.
On that trip, she said, the teacher group took letters to encourage students to write to a special person and handed out lemonade to share.
The group came up with a way to be more noticeable to students by attaching a magnet to both sides of the car that said “TJ Teachers,” which was Woosley’s idea.
Spence said Thursday, the group went out again and gave students candy, drink pouches and nature scavenger hunts to promote having fun outside with their families.
In addition, students were also given the opportunity to choose a book to take home with them and were given an application for a library card from the Faulkner County Library, encouraging them to take advantage of those free resources available there.
On July 12, the group of educators from Theodore Jones plans to travel to the Beaverfork area, Shadow Ridge Road and Grandview Heights with sight words and suckers.
The group will tackle books and bubblegum in the Nichole Place, RichSmith Lane, East German Lane area July 19.
Spence said being able to do this is a double-bonus — not only do they get to see kids and their families but also get to spend time bonding and building relationships as a team.
The best part, she said, was seeing the kids light up, eager to share hugs and greet the group they usually only see during the school year.
Spence said those reactions were incredibly impactful for the teachers.
At one house, Spence was greeted by a student she taught last year, Eian, his brother, Eryn, and his grandmother, Tammie Young, who shared vegetables she had picked from her garden, with the group.
“That was so sweet,” Spence said. “That was so unexpected.”
There, Eian was able to share special items with his teacher including the swing in the backyard that he took her to almost immediately.
“It’s a different way to connect with the kids other than just a school setting,” Spence said.
She said she realized, after the fact, that at one house they were able to interact with a few kids who were entering kindergarten this year as well and that was their first impression of Theodore Jones.
“That was another way to reach those kindergarten babies who are coming into school for the first time,” Spence said.
She said making that connection, building those relationships with students and meeting them in their element was fun. She said she is eager to hear about the initiative from the kids' perspective when everyone returns to school in the fall.