Almond teachers and staff throw car parade for cooped-up kids

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Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Almond School fourth-grade teacher Emily Simon, top, waves her giant iridescent wings as she takes part in the school’s car parade.

Emily Simon felt like a princess wearing giant iridescent wings as she rode down the street on the back of a Mustang convertible, with onlookers cheering her on.

But it wasn’t any normal parade she was taking part in. Simon, a fourth-grade teacher at Almond School, was participating in a socially distanced car parade, meant to reconnect students, parents and teachers after weeks of sheltering in place.

Teachers and school staff bedecked their cars with balloons, posters, streamers and other decorations. The procession snaked its way through the neighborhoods Almond serves, with teachers poking their heads out windows and through sunroofs.

Parents and students stood in their front yards and along the sidewalk, often with posters of their own, cheering the educators on. For many, it was the first time they’d seen their teachers in person since schools closed March 13.

Getting to see her students again was a “breath of fresh air” for Simon, who said that interacting with kids and seeing their smiling faces every day is a major motivator for teachers.

“It was a good reminder of why we’re doing this. Online teaching is not fun, but it was good to get re-energized to keep doing it,” she said. “They are why we’re doing this. We’re still here for them; they’re still here to learn from us.”

Almond’s parade is part of a trend nationwide, with schools across the country hosting parades as a way for teachers to interact with their students from a safe distance. Other local elementary schools also have gotten in on the action, including Oak Avenue and Springer.

Almond sixth-grader Benzie Kanda said he liked seeing all the ways the teachers decorated their cars, adding that he hadn’t seen his teacher in person since school closed.

“It was pretty fun because we were both happy to see each other,” Benzie said.

Fourth-grader Aiko Yamasaki similarly said she was very happy to get to see her teachers again. To show school spirit, she made a sign reading “Let’s Go Almond Eagles,” which she displayed as she watched the procession go past with her brother and parents. Aiko’s mom, Michiko, said she really appreciated the effort that teachers went to in creating the parade, as well as coordinating remote learning.

“The teachers are wonderful,” Michiko said. “They’re doing their best to make the kids feel like they’re in school and connected.”

That sense of connection is what touched Emma Ludwick as she watched the parade go past with her two young children. Her daughter Katherine is a first-grader at Almond and her son will enter kindergarten next year. Ludwick’s voice broke as she described how emotional it was to see teachers and friends again in person.

“When you pick a neighborhood school, we were picking it to be in our neighborhood and be in our community,” said Ludwick, who lives down the street from Almond. “That was one of the main reasons we’re here – for neighbors and community – and so the isolation feels like a huge loss.”

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