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School parade raise spirits of students and teachers

The Forest Hills parade drives down Dandridge Road while waving at the children and adults that line the street to see them. Photos by Christie Slocum

Since school was called off on such short notice, students nor teachers got to say goodbye and for many, this has been really hard. Thursday was the first day in more than a week that students got to see their teachers in person — from a safe social distance. A few students waved from golf carts that had taken them to where their street met Dandridge Road while others hung out of sunroofs holding signs parked along Bells Highway as roughly 20 cars drove through the neighborhood.
A few teachers waved from cars, held signs through their sunroofs, jingled cowbells, or painted their vehicles to show spirit. It seemed to be as refreshing for the teachers and administrators as it was for students. It was clear how much one group needed the other and their love is simply undeniable. Wilsey Hamilton, principal for Forest Hills Elementary School, knew as soon as she saw other teachers across the nation riding parade-style through neighborhoods that her kids and staff also needed this type of interaction. She asked her staff and, by the end of the day, had 32 on board. She reached out to one of her bus drivers and asked if they could help her design an abbreviated bus route and the driver worked with the bus office and got the route ready. “Our staff was shocked to see how many people were holding signs for us. Even parents that were at work came out of their workplace and cheered us on. It was reassuring to see the support,” said Hamilton.


The young principal is no stranger to our district as she has served in various capacities over the years, but this is her first year serving as principal at Forest Hills Elementary. “I could have never imagined last June that this is where we would be today. I am really big on communication and interaction, so not being able to physically see my staff and students is really wearing on me mentally. I need to be able to physically be able to evaluate them and only being able to deliver instruction solely through email has been hard,” said Hamilton. She realizes educators across the world are all experiencing the same thing being in uncharted territory but admits it has been tough to coach with the uniqueness of the situations they are encountering. Through this she is singing the praises of her staff and they keep pushing.

“The collaboration between all of us has really strengthened us. I can tap into staff members that have experience with some of the platforms we are using and they are teaching the rest of us how to do it,” she said. Forest Hills Elementary has two teachers that are doing a daily read along. Tiffany West and Ashley Whaley are both reading books from all grade levels that are found on the Accelerated Reading list. Students can watch the videos that are posted to the school’s Facebook page or on Class Dojo. They can then log into their Accelerated Reader account and take the corresponding quiz to test their reading comprehension. Other teachers like Diamond Berry have a YouTube Channel where she is demonstrating how to work through problems or Sarah Molten, who is using Zoom and YouTube to show third-graders how to complete their work.
Hamilton says it is with 100% certainty that the staff misses their children. They have a goal to make sure they are reaching every one of the kids and to give them support saying some of the older students act as caregivers for younger siblings until their adult caregiver gets home from work. She is striving to make sure all of her students’ needs are met. Thru their acts of love, they are slowly building trust in the community and wants everyone to know that teachers really do care.

Christie Slocum (595 Posts)