Photo by Kelly White
Principal Kristin Reingruber told students how much she missed them during Glen Oaks Elementary School's vehicle parade.
By Kelly White
After Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s announcement that all Illinois schools will remain closed for the rest of the 2020 school year, North Palos School District 117 staff members took it upon themselves to let students know they are missed.
Glen Oaks Elementary School educators decorated their vehicles with Panther pride on the afternoon of April 21 and headed through the communities of Hickory Hills and Bridgeview, past the homes of students in a good-old-fashioned parade led by none other than a North Palos School District 117 school bus.
Roberts Park Fire Protection District’s first responders also joined in on the joyous outreach by having crew members travel along in the parade on a fire engine and other emergency response vehicles.
The parade lasted more than two hours and kicked off at 1 p.m. from Glen Oaks, 9040 S. 88th Ave., Hickory Hills.
“ I think it's great for kids and families,” said Andy Anderson, assistant superintendent of North Palos Schools Pupil Personnel Services.
He was right, as countless students and family members gathered on front lawns and porches waving and cheering on their teachers and school officials. Teachers reached out to district families prior to the parade, encouraging them to decorate their living room windows proudly with the school’s colors, red and black, along with construction cutouts of paw prints and hearts to help spread some Panther love during their time at home.
“ This was a great way for us to see our students in person and have a way to connect with them other than just through the computer,” said Kristin Reingruber , principal at Glen Oaks. “They are missed so much by all of us at Glen Oaks.”
Reingruber joined nearly 80 other staff members in the parade that features over 50 cars.
“All of our staff members were so excited to be a part of this,” Reingruber said. “Everyone’s extremely positive.”
The idea for the parade sparked from Glen Oaks’ second grade teachers — JoAnne Brotsch, Jennifer McCormick and Lisa Valentine — who had seen similar parades being done both in-person and online. They knew this would a perfect way to reach out to students during this difficult time.
“ The amount of gratitude I have right now is indescribable,” said McCormick, a second-grade math and science teacher. “We love our students and it truly is amazing what a group of people can accomplish when love leads the way. The idea came about a few weeks ago when JoAnne, Lisa and I were really missing our students and trying to brainstorm how we could connect with them on a more personal level. We thought if we organized a parade it would show our students and their families that even though we can't be in the classroom with them right now, we are always here supporting, encouraging, and missing them. My hope is this parade will bring smiles, grateful hearts and a bit of normal to this very confusing time we are all facing right now.”
The three teachers then detailed plans for the parade to other employees through Zoom calls and emails.
“ When we left school on Friday, March 13, we never expected to be out so long,” said Brotsch, a second-grade math teacher and science teacher. “We all were feeling a little sad for our students and ourselves we started discussing what could we do? We came up with the idea of a parade. We are so excited to be able to see their faces and give them something to cheer about.”
Valentine, also a second-grade math and science teacher, couldn’t have agreed more.
“I saw a lot of other schools have a parade for their students and I just thought it was a great way to make that face to face connection with each other again,” Valentine said. “I wanted to show them how much we do miss them and we are here for all of them. Together we will get through this.”