Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert
Margaret Hurlbert works as the Editor of Discover Muscatine Newspaper.

Muscatine Living

MUSCATINE, Iowa—With schools closed to help stem the spread of COVID-19, many students and teachers alike miss the time they spend together at school. Though students and teachers cannot come together again until at least May 1, Jefferson teachers found a way to connect with their classes a little early by holding a car parade March 23. 

Maria Sneath, a gifted and talented teacher at Jefferson, saw a news story about neighbors who celebrated a boy’s birthday by holding a car parade. With just a little work, she knew Jefferson teachers could easily put together such a parade to cheer up their students. “I thought we could adapt this to reach out to families during this time,” Sneath said. “This would be a great way to make a personal connection with Jefferson families while at the same time maintaining social distancing.”

Sneath shared her idea with Jefferson Principal Kandy Steel, who wholeheartedly agreed with her. “Our teachers and school staff are heartbroken about school being delayed and we miss our kids,” shared Steel: “The caring human connections that take place daily in our schools between students and their teachers is every bit as important as the academic. I’m very proud of our teachers and staff for finding ways to navigate difficult times that include providing caring connections and outreach to our students.”

Working together via email, Sneath and other teachers at Jefferson decided to call their car parade the Jefferson Jamboree. They designed a route to travel many of the streets around Jefferson, as well as by Muscatine Center for Social Action and the Musser Public Library. Individually, teachers created signs and other decorations for their cars. 

The day of the parade, roughly 35 cars formed the Jefferson Jamboree. Sneath felt very proud of the good turnout, but expected as much as Jefferson has fostered a close-knit community. “I wasn’t surprised,” she beamed. “We are a big Jefferson family, and staff is always available to participate in good causes and fun events like this one.”

As the Jefferson Jamboree traveled through town, Sneath and the other teachers saw many students watching them pass. Whether waiving from windows, porches, or their family cars, students very much enjoyed getting to see their teachers again. “Their reactions can all be summed up by their smiles and waves,” stated Sneath. 

Following the parade, Steel received a lot of positive feedback on the Jefferson Jamboree and felt glad her staff had put together such a joyful event during a difficult time: “Yesterday, I stopped at both Walmart and Hy-Vee and saw parents and students. The first thing they said was how much fun and how happy they were to see the Jefferson staff driving by waiving and honking.”  

To keep the positive connections flowing after the Jefferson Jamboree ended, third grade teacher Brenda Todd put together a virtual spirit week for students and staff to participate in. In the weeks to come, they look forward to finding more ways to connect with students and help everyone stay connected even in this time of social distancing. 

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