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Just poppin’ in

Teachers find ways to safely get some face-to-face time

Betsy Heyboer, a first grade teacher at South Elementary, reached out to Principal Darla England after a Google Meet session with students. Although she loved seeing their faces during the virtual meetups, it just wasn’t the same. Or enough. 

First grade teacher Betsy Heyboer holds a picture student Brielle Bohl made for her

Heyboer asked if she could find a way to see her students face-to-face while adhering to social distancing. After approval from England, she designed a card to deliver to each of her 20 students with the words “Just Popping in to See How You Are Doing,” and made gift bags for them that included a bag of popcorn and a drink. 

“This is simply another way to connect,” England said. “Something for kiddos to look forward to. Showing how much teachers care.”

Heyboer’s plan was simple: place the treat on the student’s doorstep, back up at least six feet and then have a conversation about anything the student wanted to talk about. And when the other first grade teachers at South, Katherine Ojeda and Kimberly Hyde, heard about her plan, they decided to join in. 

“We decided to do this for our students so we could connect with them face-to-safe-distance-face,” Heyboer said. “We wanted to see for ourselves that each student was doing well. We wanted to show the students that their teacher was doing well.”

All told, the trio visited more than 50 South first graders. 

Long Time, No See

Katie Kladder sets down a pot of tulips for her teacher Kim Hyde, after Kim dropped off popcorn and a pop

Evan Butts, a first grader in Ojeda’s class, was so excited to see his teacher that he decided to catch her up on his recent activities outside of the classroom. Pulling out his new basketball, he showed off a couple of the moves he had been working on. Evan said he plans to play for the Harlem Globetrotters when he grows up. 

“I’m so proud of you,” Ojeda told him. “You have been working so hard.”  

Evan also told his teacher that he was ready to get back in the classroom, a sentiment she agreed with wholeheartedly. He also suggested that the class read a book about dogs in upcoming lessons. 

“I can’t wait to see you again,” Ojeda said to Evan. “We will be back together soon, but thank you for all the hard work you are doing at home.” 

First grader Brielle Bohl and her mom, Lindsay, open their front door to see Brielle’s teacher, Betsy Heyboer, standing six feet away

Brielle Bohl had been looking forward to her visit from Heyboer since her parents told her a special visitor would be coming. She made some artwork that she sent back with Heyboer, and told her how much she missed seeing her at school. 

Brielle also told her teacher about what she has been up to outside of school, including lots of artwork and time outdoors with her siblings.

“Next year when I come back I will be in second grade,” Brielle pointed out. “I want to be back at school soon. I miss you and school.” 

Making Memories

After having a chat with each student, the teachers took a photo with each one chatting or waving. The photos will be old-fashioned mailed to students as a way to remember their first grade year, even during quarantine.

“This was a way to thank them for their hard work in completing the remote learning assignments while at home,” Heyboer said. “This is not an easy task, when home has many wonderful distractions like their toys, bikes and the outside.”

From left: first grader Lavender Traxler chats with her teacher, Kate Ojeda

Though Heyboer expected that these home visits would bring some much needed joy during stay-at-home orders, she said she wasn’t prepared for the lasting sense of calm she experienced after she completed her visits. 

“I should have known, with this group of students,” Heyboer said. “As a teacher, I tried to bring joy to them each day in the classroom, and they always gave me joy right back. The same is true in seeing them on their front porch: their smiles, our conversation, our air-hugs all brought me such joy.

“It was so great to see our students and so difficult not to go hug each and every one of them. They are such an amazing group of first graders.”

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Hannah Lentz
Hannah Lentz
A 2017 graduate of Grand Valley State University and a lifelong teacher’s kid, Hannah Lentz has worked as a journalist in and outside the Grand Rapids area for more than five years. After serving as editor-in-chief at the GVSU student newspaper, Hannah interned at the Leelanau Enterprise where she learned a lot about community journalism. In addition to her work for School News Network, Hannah has worked as a freelance blogger in the furniture industry, focusing on design trends, and as a social media manager for World Medical Relief in Detroit.


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