With schools across Massachusetts closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, teachers and staff in several communities, including Leominster’s Northwest Elementary School, came up with a way to show their pupils how much they miss and appreciate them.
Around 100 staff members from Northwest Elementary got in their cars Monday morning and drove through the neighborhoods of some of their students, waving to children and parents along the parade route, who likewise showed their appreciation.
Some of the cars were decorated with a variety of items, from balloons to a sign urging pupils to “Keep Reading.” Students and parents who stepped out of their houses to greet the parade held signs, too, with messages such as “We Miss You” and support for their teachers.
Keeping “social distancing” recommendations in mind, the parade and its supporters stayed about 6 feet apart.
“We were amazed at how many people had signs out, saying that they missed the teachers too,” Northwest Principal Colleen Gilhooly said after the parade finished. “I think that really made teachers’ hearts smile, because we never anticipated that.”
According to Gilhooly, the idea for Monday morning’s parade came together in just a couple of days. Last weekend, she said, first-grade teacher Pamela Julsonnet sent her a video of teachers “driving around and just checking in and seeing their kids,” and asked if Northwest could do something similar.
“And I said, ‘Sure, let’s give it a whirl,’ ” Gilhooly said.
The plan came together on Sunday, with Julsonnet and school secretary Margaret Wood leading the effort.
“We recognized a sense of urgency with everything happening,” Gilhooly said, “and they literally pulled it together last night, and we did social media through our staff, and got everybody together.”
With so many teachers and staff members participating, the Leominster Police Department helped the parade make its way through the west side of town. In the lead car was Gilhooly, joined by Leominster Superintendent of Schools Paula Deacon.
“This was just beyond my dreams this morning,” Gilhooly said. “My heart is just smiling and bursting.”
“I haven’t stopped smiling since we started,” added Vice Principal Brian Prehna. “It’s been great.”
A similar parade was organized by teachers in the Spencer-East Brookfield Regional School District.