In the midst of a difficult week for Eccles Elementary teachers and staff, things took a turn for the better Friday morning, when they showed up to find the school’s front doors and lawn covered with positive messages in an outpouring of support from local families and parents.
“Eccles is the best,” one sign read. “Go Tigers!!”
“We Love our Teachers,” declared another. And another: “Kindness begins with Me. These 2 years have been hard for everyone. Thank you to our teachers who have done so much.”
“Thank you TEACHERS + STAFF 4 Keeping Students SAFE!” read yet another.
The flood continued inside, with balloons, flowers, coffee, doughnuts and other goodies, all contributed by parents and families who wanted the staff to know they were appreciated.
“Eccles families don’t mess around when it comes to showing us love,” Hannah Lyman, an instructional assistant at the school, said in a Facebook post. “Lots of smiles and happy tears this morning. The outpouring of love has been tremendous.”
The week had begun with a confrontation over the statewide mask mandate in schools, which continued outside Eccles’ front doors throughout this week. It involved only a handful of local parents and families but spread widely online and social media.
Several local moms, including Ashley Fryman and April Pruss, attempted to send their children to class without masks every morning this week in an act of civil disobedience and peaceful protest — and stayed to hand out flyers when they were denied entry.
On Thursday, about 20 to 30 adults and kids joined the demonstration, some holding signs protesting the mandate and calling for mask-wearing to be optional in public schools.
Third-grade teacher Jacquie Romine Fitch said it was a tough week for many staff members, who understand the frustration and anger that some parents and students are experiencing — but feel just as powerless in their own situations.
“Our staff is a family and we always support each other,” she said. “Every day, we all show up to give our best for the kids amidst trying times. For the past couple of years, it’s been a struggle for everyone at home and at school. All we want to do is keep school a safe, positive place for kids.
“We give our all, every day, trying to be role models. We try our best to help students grow and meet the many needs of every child. We are there for the children. So, it’s disheartening to feel misunderstood and blamed for things we have no control over.”
She said she received an email from one of the parents who coordinate Friday’s show of support, in which the mom had expressed heartfelt appreciation for her efforts and those of her colleagues at the school.
“She organized the posters and flowers for today because she wanted to make sure we knew we were loved,” Fitch said. “I can’t tell you how many smiles there were at school today. We went from feeling disheartened to feeling seen and appreciated. The whole vibe changed and it was positive.”
One parent, who asked to remain anonymous, said she helped organize the effort because she has seen how hard the past two years have been on the entire community.
“Our school administrators, support staff and teachers must be so tired,” she said. “They are doing so much for Canby families. I see the hard work it takes to create stability and safety for all students. The answers are not always black and white. The pandemic brings such complex challenges.”
She said she has been impressed by how Eccles Principal Andy McKean and his staff have weathered the storm.
“Eccles feels like home to us,” she said. “I wanted to come at this from an angle of love and gratitude. I want our kiddos to know how resilient they are! I want to see the community showing up in different ways.
“I want our educators to understand how lucky we are to have them. Finally, I want to encourage a sense of unity. We are in this situation together.”
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