The school year is set to begin this Tuesday in Washington County, and Bester Elementary teachers took the opportunity to walk their entire district to connect with their students in the neighborhoods where they live. Inspired by other community outreach work, including similar efforts at nearby Salem Elementary, the staff decided this summer to get out in the neighborhood to continue to deepen their connection to their students.
Groups of teachers gathered at five hubs in the district located at Frederick Manor, Elgin Station, the cultural trail, and centralized parking lots near the Shriver Center and former Corner Pub site. Parent volunteers worked with school family liaison BJ Lushbaugh to pre-package school supplies, books and other goodies for the teachers to distribute in drawstring bags. The event was much more than the giveaways, it was about emphasizing the importance of the teacher and student relationship, and engaging families. Kids could be seen running down the sidewalk to hug their teacher because they were so excited to see a familiar face in the neighborhood. A former Bester student now in middle school brought their younger sibling to the Corner Pub lot and said, “You’re lucky. You get to go to orientation at Bester.”
Bester Elementary social worker Jocelyn Summerour worked the Frederick Manor neighborhood and commented, “The great gain from today’s outreach was a proactive hand offered to students and families to cement the bond between school and community.” Bester Community of Hope staff supported the effort at each hub as well, where Director Keith Fanjoy said, “We’re excited to see this effort become a reality because we believe it will pay dividends during the school year. The more we listen and are present in the communities we serve, the more we understand kids and parents and can respond in more meaningful ways. Relationships make the difference.”