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Muscatine's Jefferson Elementary teachers help spread school spirit during the COVID-19 closure
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Muscatine's Jefferson Elementary teachers help spread school spirit during the COVID-19 closure

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MUSCATINE — Monday afternoon was filled with honks, smiles and school spirit — all thanks to the teachers at Jefferson Elementary.

Earlier this week, 35 staff members at Jefferson held what they called a “Jefferson Jamboree.”

Maria Sneath, a gifted and talented specialist-teacher who has worked at Jefferson for five years, came up with the idea after she was inspired by a story she had seen on the news.

“I saw that in a town they celebrated a little boy’s birthday this way,” she said, “so I thought it would be really cool to adapt it and go see our families around the Jefferson area.”

Sneath sent out an email to her fellow faculty members and before long it became a chain over 100 emails, filled with enthusiastic replies and people wanting to help.

“Everyone was really excited," she said. "We’re a big Jefferson family and we all really wanted to go see everyone.”

She also considered it a good way to keep social distance while still having a personal connection.

Muscatine schools are closed for four weeks as part of the statewide initiative to slow the spread of COVID-19. Normally, Jefferson would be in class this week, but without that, Sneath was missing her students.

Dr. Kandy Steel, Jefferson Elementary’s principal, agreed with this sentiment: “This is just as hard on teachers as it is on kids.”

Steel followed up at the rear of the 35-car Jamboree.

“I think I got lost a couple times, but it wasn’t hard to find, given that there were so many cars," she said.

The cars, driven by teachers, were decked out with balloons or streamers and homemade signs that said things like “We miss you!”, “We’ll see you soon” and other statements of encouragement and love for their students. Together, they drove around the area surrounding Jefferson Elementary, honking their horns and waving at the students as they passed by.

“The students came out and waved at us, though some of them stayed inside and waved through the window,” Sneath said. “It was just great seeing all the families.”

“I just think Maria provides a lot of really wonderful leadership for our kids and community, and I was really proud of her for thinking about the needs of the kids and for bringing people together," Steel said.

While there are no plans for a second Jamboree, the teachers at Jefferson continue to spread school spirit, even as the school’s doors remained closed.

Third grade teacher Brenda Todd created a virtual spirit week, which will take place next week on the Jefferson Elementary Facebook page.

Jefferson families are asked to share photos of themselves participating in the various theme days, such as Pajama Day, Book Day and Pet Day.

“We’re really excited,” Steel said. “We’re providing a lot of fun things that people can join in on.”

While Sneath misses seeing her students this week, she says that she’s taking it one day at a time.

“We just want (our students) to know that we miss them too and that we can’t wait to be back in school and back to learning," Sneath said. "We just want them to stay safe and healthy, and we’ll be back together soon.”

“We know that we’ll catch kids up, that’s what educators do,” Steel said, acknowledging that the Muscatine school district currently has no extended learning plans in place. “But right now, I think it’s just really fun for families to be together during this time. I’m sure kids are really frightened about what’s going on, so just to be able to provide a lot of emotional care and support for kids at this time is just the most important thing we can do.”

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