Teacher delivers hope and comfort to students

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Virtual communication is better than no communication at all, most people can agree with that. Seeing and hearing those you love on a computer screen is great when that is the only way you can connect, but it is not the same as being able to see them in person and show them how much you care.

Adapted curriculum teacher Michelle Ward at Bennett’s Middle, like most teachers, has been missing that personal interaction with her students. While she cannot see them in person, she wanted to show them how much she misses and cares about them, so, with parental permission, she drove to each one of their homes on a recent afternoon dropping off messages of love and encouragement, along with some goodies to brighten their day.

Ward’s students have special needs, so routines and familiarity are what promote success and growth for them, she says. “These times certainly are not familiar or routine so I thought making a package with fun items and a personal message from me would help us feel a sense of being united even when we are apart.”

Ward purchased oversized envelopes and decorated them by hand with personalized messages for each student with phrases such as “You are Cool,” “Be Amazing Like You Always Are,” “You Are Missed,” “You Make Me Smile,” “You Are My Sunshine,” and “You Are Beautiful.” She stuffed the packages with items she knew would bring fun, joy, and smiles to the faces of her students. The packets contained a little of everything from whimsical fun and creative to mind-challenging and educational. Included were sidewalk chalk, art activity materials, squishy slow-rise fidgets (for stress relief and self-regulation), a checkerboard game for playing with the family, Skittles (as Ward puts it, who doesn’t want to taste the rainbow), and a U.S. wall map and stickers.

Ward explains that her students will be studying U.S. parks and monuments after spring break. She asked them to use the stickers to mark the state of Georgia on the map along with states they have visited and three states they would like to visit. She says they will share their maps with each other on a Zoom meeting.

Before she could get back home, Ward was receiving text messages from her students and parents saying “thank you,”  “I love Mrs. Ward,” “You are amazing,” and “Thanks for making her feel special.”

Making her students feel happy and special were exactly the feelings Ward hoped her packages would evoke, the same feelings she felt as she was assembling them.

“I was excited when I was packing the items and I prayed for my students that the packages would bring them joy and comfort. I wanted them to know how much they are missed and thought about. It gave me a way to connect to my students (other than virtually) and it comforted me to know I would bring them some fun, and they would feel special, and know how awesome they are.”

Ward says she is planning to deliver a second set of care packages before the end of the school year with different items and activities.

“I feel like as a teacher, especially one of special learners, it is critical to make connections that are not just through a computer screen. Even during this time when we cannot safely connect physically, making these deliveries allows for students to feel remembered, special and connected.”

Before making her deliveries, Ward snapped some photos of the fronts of the care packages. This one was for Chloe.