Westwood staff take greetings to school community

Allison Westfall misses her kids. She’s feeling the void that has come with the suspension of in-class instruction due to the coronavirus.

But, on Wednesday afternoon, the Grade 2-3 teacher at Westwood Elementary School got the chance to reconnect with her students and her school community. Westfall took part in a Westwood staff car parade that started at the school and weaved its way through the streets of the neighbourhood. Along the way, Westfall and her colleagues honked their horns and waved at families gathered on front lawns and sidewalks.

For Westfall, the experience was an emotional one.

“I was holding back tears the entire time,” she said. “It was a lot of fun, big smiles. Even right now, I’m fighting back some tears. It was great to see the kids.

“They looked really happy to see us,” she added. “That’s a big part of our job, where we’re connected and we have those relationships with our kids. As teachers, that’s what we’re here for – we’re here for those kids so we’re feeling it. We miss them, we love them and we just wanted them to know that we’re still here for them. I’m so glad that we did (the parade) and I hope that the kids enjoyed it as much as we did.”

Teachers and students haven’t seen each other in school settings since March 13, the last day before spring break. Teachers themselves – accustomed to seeing each other regularly – are also adjusting to a lack of day-to-day contact. Some are still working in schools, some are working from home and others are in schools intermittently to prepare lesson packages to send to their students. For that reason, Wednesday’s staff parade was also a welcome occasion.

“I think it was a great bonding for our staff because we are not all connected, but it let us connect today and we really had a great time connecting with our kids,” said Westwood principal Steve Dalla Lana. “We miss them, and seeing all the families on the road, I’m over the moon right now.

“I was blown away. There were pockets of families on a corner here, a corner here – families that I had no idea where they lived. I know they live in my catchment area, and they came out of their houses. There was such a great engagement from our community and from our families.”

Dalla Lana said Westwood students are continuing to receive quality instruction in these uncertain times.

“Our teachers are phoning them weekly, our teachers are emailing or sending work out. They’re connecting in the learning but we don’t get that chance to connect in a more social way, and today was a social way across our community.”

Dalla Lana brought his own brand of fun to the day by dressing up as ‘Principal Obvious’ in a captain’s hat and dark glasses.

Four teachers – Jenna Purdey, Catherine Hendry, Pam Matyas and Maureen McDonald – went green for the car parade by riding their bikes.

Other schools in the district that have held car parades include Malaspina Elementary and Southridge Elementary. Staff members at Springwood Elementary and Heritage Elementary, meanwhile, have produced video clips as a way to greet students. Westwood has also done a video, which will soon be made available to its families.

For Westwood, Wednesday’s parade was such a success that more events to bring teachers and students together in socially-responsible ways could happen.

“I think we learned a lot from today,” Dalla Lana said. “We bonded as a staff about the importance of each other and the importance of the social connection that we miss and so I think we look forward to having more opportunities like this.”