Project Impact: Teachers change lives
Posted on 05/21/2018
Supt. Jenkins presents Traci Williams with a letter of appreciation.

In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, School Board members, Superintendent Barbara Jenkins, and district administrators made surprise visits to elementary and middle school teachers with heartfelt thank you letters from former students.

As part of “Project Impact: Teachers Change Lives,” high school seniors wrote a letter to a teacher who made a difference in their educational journey. The letters noted a teacher’s compassion, support, encouragement, strictness, sense of humor and passion as elements the students took with them to help them succeed.

Dr. Jenkins visited teachers at West Creek, Hunters Creek and Waterbridge elementaries. One-by-one, the teachers loved hearing the specific details the student included about the teacher’s class. Most times, teachers shed tears of happiness and gratitude.

Some letters cited how the students disliked math, but the teacher made the lessons fun and engaging to help them master the material. One student, Braelynn Steward of Freedom High School, even noted that she was taking Advanced Placement Statistics, which she would never have dreamed possible when he was in fourth grade struggling with math concepts. She credited and thanked Traci Williams of Waterbridge Elementary School for connecting math concepts to everyday life, which made them understandable.

“I really try to make math relatable to real world and fun. I tell stories to try to make connections outside of the classroom so hopefully it sticks,” Ms. Williams said. “I was truly honored that I made an impact on her. Moments like these are what make teaching rewarding.”

At Blankner School, Linda Kobert, District 3 School Board member, delivered letters to six teachers. Science teacher George Carson received a thank you for making science fun, and for building the student’s self-esteem and confidence, especially related to her academics.

The writer, Bridget Hartig of Boone High School, grew to be the Student Body Secretary, and an exceptional student with a 4.6 GPA. She credits Mr. Carson with showing her that studying and hard work could help her achieve her full potential.

Bridget with Mr. Carson“I was surprised and humbled when I got the letter. Bridget was a great kid and it meant a lot to me to know that she looked back fondly on the class. I’ve been teaching for a bit over 29 years, and one of the things that inspires me to keep teaching is that I have a passion for science and enjoy sharing the wonder of the natural world with others,” Mr. Carson said. “These kids are going to be voters one day and I want them to be scientifically literate and able to make informed decisions about topics that affect their future and mine.”

In total, the high schools collected more than 7,000 letters from current seniors to former teachers thanking them for making a positive impact on their life. While district leadership hand-delivered 300 framed letters, the high schools are organizing the remaining letters to send to the intended recipients via courier, mail or drop offs.

“We hoped to remind our teachers how much we appreciate them and how they are changing the lives of our students. The letters clearly demonstrate how our OCPS teachers build relationships with students and support them to learn at the highest levels. We hoped to bring each of them joy via recognition of the legacy they are building each day in the greatest professional in the world,” said Chief of High Schools Harold Border, who created the project.