How Elementary School ‘Teacher Parades’ Brought the Community Together

Amidst the orders for social distancing, teachers organized parades to drive by their students' homes and say their last goodbyes for the school year.

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Tim Edwards

Cassie Stewart, a fourth grade teacher at Tecumseh South, decorated her car with a message in anticipation to see her students again.

Bella LeJuerrne, Reporter

Despite times of uncertainty and isolation as a result of Covid-19, teachers from Shawnee Heights District’s elementary schools have worked to bring a little happiness to their students’ homes. 

This past month, Tecumseh South, Tecumseh North, and Shawnee Heights Elementary School organized what is nationally known as a ‘Teacher Parade.’ These parades occurred in a social-distancing style, allowing teachers to see their students while maintaining the recommended safe distance that comes with preventing the spread of Covid-19. Before the stay-at-home orders took place, teachers gathered safely in their cars to drive along a specified route of student homes, brandishing posters of greetings and positivity, while waving to the familiar faces that have not seen school halls in a month.

…It was so emotional – tears in my eyes several different times – to see the whole community come together and have fun. At this time in our lives we need something that brings us a smile to our face.”

— Quinci Packard

Quinci Packard, a fourth grade teacher at Tecumseh South, was among one of many who organized Tecumseh South’s teacher parade for the community. The original parade was cancelled because of the sudden stay-at-home order that was issued in Kansas on March 26, the day before the parade was set to occur. Possibility of the parade was questioned before another teacher approached Packard with the idea to have the day before the Stay-At-Home order took place. What would be a positive (and emotional) impact for the community made this parade too significant an opportunity to miss out on. 

“I’m so glad that we ended up doing it,” Packard said. “…There was a huge turnout for staff members, and there was a huge turnout for families. My husband drove me around so I didn’t have to focus on waving and driving. It was so emotional – tears in my eyes several different times – to see the whole community come together and have fun. At this time in our lives we need something that brings us a smile to our face.” 

This parade provided many familiarities that students, teachers, and parents alike are missing in the now common practices of social distancing. Kadence Watts, a sixth grader at Tecumseh South who watched the parade, could not finish her final year at elementary school due to its cancellation, missing out on the sixth grade graduation celebrations she was anticipating. Most disappointing of all, she missed out on the last days with her teachers and friends before she attends middle school next year. 

Tim Edwards
Quinci Packard, a fourth grade teacher at Tecumseh South who helped organize Tecumseh South’s parade, is driven by her husband so she can wave to her students during the parade.

“[The parade] made me feel better because I got to see my teachers for the last time in a while, but hopefully I’ll be able to go back to South,” Watts said. “But even then if I won’t for a while, I know that I got to see them for the last time in the sixth grade year.” 

Students like Watts have adjusted their learning to use online resources. Watts describes that she is required to complete thirty minutes of schoolwork per class each day, with the addition of extracurricular classes such as P.E., music, and art. With daily or weekly class Zoom calls, much of the school environment is being transferred online. Nonetheless, students still miss out on seeing their teachers and friends in person and the positive environment of the school, aspects the parade focused on providing for the students. The parade’s primary focus was to set up an event for students to look for to and be able to have fun at, ultimately brightening their day despite the dark situation the world faces. In addition to the escape from reality it provided for the students and parents, teachers found their own hope too. 

Tim Edwards
Kalli Wylie, a third grade teacher at Tecumseh South, holds a sign for her students that says, “We Miss You!”

“For teachers, it gave us a chance to see our students, to see them smiling, and just let them know we care about them and miss them and we love them,” Packard said. “Which is a positive thing, because we are all incredibly sad to not be able to finish the school year and not be able to see and hug our students, so to just have one more chance to see them face-to-face.” 

In times of uncertainty, fear, and stress, it is easy to crumble under this immense pressure. Even so, people all over the world have found ways to spread positivity. People in countries across the globe have taken to their balconies to applaud healthcare workers and spread the joy of music. Others are leaving care packages for the Amazon, FedEx, and UPS workers who are still making deliveries during the pandemic. Teacher parades are just one way the elementary schools are bringing a little positivity to students’ driveways. 

“For the community and the parents and the students, to see that we are in this together, that we are still here for them and just having fun together, is a positive thing,” Packard said.