MES Teachers and Students Make a Difference
Any parent who has ever stood in a slow grocery line with a young child while surrounded by tempting displays of candy and toys can easily relate to a Kindergarten teacher whose task it is to teach “needs versus wants.” Yet Heather Gigliotti and Therese Warner (Kindergarten and Pre-Kindergarten teachers, respectively) at McGaheysville Elementary found a way to forever cement these concepts into the minds of their students. Their idea was so compelling that the Virginia Council on Economic Education awarded them first place honors among all elementary school projects in their Economic Education Awards Program; and now MES implements their “Helping Hands – Happy Hearts” concept as part of a school-wide initiative.
Their project stemmed from their tenet that all children must learn how to be good citizens. Mrs. Gigliotti and Mrs. Warner explain to their children that not everyone in society is able to satisfy, without assistance, their fundamental needs for food, shelter, and clothing. Their key objective - each student can make a difference in the life of someone else who needs help. To drive this point home, they chose to raise money to support a local Habitat for Humanity project.
On Saturday, October 27, MES Pre-K and Kindergarten students will visit the Central Valley Habitat for Humanity home in Harrisonburg and feed volunteers, offer a donation of funds they have raised by filling Habitat for Humanity banks (shown in picture), and present the new homeowner with two hand-made quilts. Through this experience, students will have assisted in providing food (lunch), shelter (money donation to support home building), and clothing (quilt) to a community member in need. They will personally meet the new homeowner, helping the young children to see and more clearly understand the positive impact they can directly make through their personal and collective efforts.
The McGaheysville students are participating as part of a nationwide effort that day. Sponsored by USA Weekend magazine, Saturday, October 27 has been tagged “Make a Difference Day” and other people throughout the US are helping their neighbors as well. (See http://www.usaweekend.com/diffday/index.html for info.) Under the leadership of MES principal, Becky Roadcap, students and staff at the elementary school are also making a difference well beyond this single day as many have taken initiative to raise awareness and offer support to various other worthy causes through classroom projects and personal efforts.
McGaheysville Elementary proudly announces that along with Mrs. Gigliotti and Mrs. Warner, other teachers have implemented successful Economics Education projects that have earned recognition. JMU’s Center for Economic Education awarded Bonnie Downey, 1st Grade teacher, the top prize in the primary division for her “Caring for Cancer” bracelet project while 2nd Grade teachers Chevie Cale, Janis Churchill, Elizabeth Evick, and Michele Sheffer earned a third place award for their “2nd Grade Sweet Shops” project to honor former Challenge teacher, Jen Townsend, who lost her 14-year battle to cancer last year. Mrs. Gigliotti and Mrs. Warner secured the grand prize award from the JMU Center for Economic Education for their “Helping Hands – Happy Hearts” project, as well, prior to earning their state recognition.
Mrs. Roadcap comments that their award-winning approach to teaching Economics is facilitated by a good working relationship among the teachers. "They are willing to share and help each other with ideas. It's a very positive collaborative environment," she adds.
First graders in Mrs. Downey’s class (at left) chose to create and sell bracelets in order to help a fellow classmate who was stricken with cancer. Each bracelet contained a cancer bead among many other colorful beads as a means of showing support. “The students really wanted to help their classmate so they raised $500 for the family and also made a donation to the local American Cancer Society office,” explained Mrs. Downey. Along the way, students learned about key economic concepts such as producers and consumers, profit, and coin recognition. As importantly, they experienced how to be a caring and compassionate friend.
The “Second Grade Sweet Shops” project (at right) conducted by MES second graders focused on creating homemade (i.e., classroom-made) chocolate treats to sell during Valentines week. The teachers taught the 66 students about specialization and interdependence in organizing and conducting the project as each classroom produced a different product but they pooled their money in the end. With their profits, they purchased and planted on the MES grounds a Japanese Pagoda tree to honor their teacher, Mrs. Townsend. The 2nd Grade teachers added, “We found out that she really liked the Japanese Pagoda tree which means “nurturing teacher.” Then we realized that this would be a perfect way to have a natural memorial in her honor. As we see it bloom and grow, it will remind us of her nurturing teaching methods with her students and colleagues.”
And it is this nurturing spirit that seems to continue to pervade the classrooms at McGaheysville Elementary as students and teachers look to learn and grow and make a difference in the lives of classmates and their families, as well as others they have yet to know.