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School staff perform super acts of kindness during trying times

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    Courtesy photo: John C. Webb kindergarten teacher Allison Thorpe has gone above and beyond the call of duty delivering meals and instructional learning packets to students who didn’t have access to pick them up while schools were closed due to COVID-19.
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Courtesy photo: A group of Anderson-Shiro CISD teachers and staff spearheaded by Dana Wagner worked together to provide breakfast and lunch to students during the closure of schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The group helping Wagner consisted of Rebecca Wisnoski, Sharon Berger, Misty Klawinsky and Julie Yargo. A total of 2,850 meals were distributed weekly.

They don’t have names like Captain Marvel or Wonder Woman and most likely they don’t even own a cape. What they do have is dedication to their students in Grimes County and a servant’s heart. Their legions have been many during these difficult times but here are just a few superheroes brought to our attention.

Teaching by example

Allison Thorpe is a first year kindergarten teacher at John C. Webb Elementary, and according to Principal Emily Nichols, Thorpe “loves her students as if they were her own children.”

Nichols said, “She goes above and beyond for them on a daily basis. John C. Webb is a better place with teachers like Ms. Thorpe.”

Going above and beyond includes the numerous occasions Thorpe delivered meals and school packets to students whose parents weren’t in a position to pick them up themselves when classes were suspended.

Not one to toot her own horn, Thorpe explained, “Some were working families and you just try to help out as much as you can.”

But a special treat for each student was Thorpe’s Covid Time Capsule packets complete with a child’s face mask that she made.

Thorpe said, “This is a very historic time we’re living in. I did that so that they could do something with their families. They’re walking around seeing all these adults with facemasks and I wanted them to have a facemask for themselves. Just to sort of normalize it and not make this time so scary.”

As for the families’ reaction, Thorpe said, “My kids’ families were grateful. They know I truly love my kids. I have several moms who are single and struggling. Struggling to get the work done.”

Thorpe encouraged her families to show themselves a little compassion, saying, “Do what you can and be kind to yourself because your kids are going to remember the memories of what happened, good or bad, more than what scores they get.”

She continued, “I wanted my families to not be stressed out. It’s stressful enough. We’re dealing with this as a world. I wanted my families to offer themselves grace, forgiveness and compassion, things we would give to our best friend, I wanted them to give this to themselves.”

“It’s what we do at Anderson-Shiro”

You might call Dana Wagner a reluctant superhero. The Anderson-Shiro CISD teacher was eager to help during the COVID-19 crisis but reluctant to accept any credit. Wagner is one of many in her school district who made it possible for students to receive lunches and breakfasts during the school closure and she provided the Examiner with a glimpse behind the scenes of how it came together. To Wagner, the heroes are the dedicated staff like teacher Rebecca Wisnoski, Child Nutrition staff Sharon Berger and Misty Klawinsky and Child Nutrition Director Julie Yargo.

Their mission began Friday, March 20, when the administrative and nutrition teams assembled to identify where the children were located, map bus routes and plan and assemble breakfasts and lunches.

Working from 8 a.m. – 7 p.m., utilizing what was on hand while meeting federal nutrition guidelines, they prepared 440 breakfasts and 440 lunches per day to cover five days of the upcoming week. The first week’s delivery rolled out Monday, March 23.

As family-child arrangements leveled out, they packed on average 285 breakfasts and 285 lunches for a total of 2,850 meals per week. The crew quickly developed an assembly line method for efficiency and to ensure that each meal contained the required items and nutrients.

According to Wagner, 26 years in the classroom did not prepare her for the paperwork or nutritional knowledge required of nutrition department staff. Wagner said of Klawinsky, “She knew the law about how many fruits, how many vegetables, what’s a grain, what’s a protein? I had no clue about all that stuff.”

The detailed record keeping required documenting how many meals were prepared, how many came back, what happened with the meals returned, were dry items reused, were perishables given away to a food bank, for instance, or thrown out? And for every meal prepared, they were required to document who picked up the meals, child or parent.

Grocery orders arrived each Tuesday. Fruit was checked on a daily basis and the disposition of unused fruit was documented along with an explanation of what it was replaced with. Wagner called the nutrition staff the “shining stars of all of this.”

She said, “I had no clue what the cafeteria ladies did, and after spending nine weeks working with them side by side, they are so underpaid for the responsibility and the work they do, including the lifting!”

Wagner added that Berger and Klawinsky “went above and beyond” when they prepared 400 Easter goody bags with pencils, trinkets and candy to accompany that week’s meals.

The last meal delivery was made May 18. While the experience was personally rewarding for Wagner, the Anderson native and Anderson-Shiro graduate said “Everybody pitched in and made a difference. It’s what we do here at Anderson-Shiro. We take care of people who need to be taken care of and that’s all we’ve ever done.”