Teachers from Collingswood and Oaklyn arrived at Collingswood Middle School on Sept. 5 for their first day of school. They expected the annual first-day routine that teachers across New Jersey know well: a packed agenda of meetings and professional development sessions.
What they weren’t prepared for was to be greeted by an enthusiastic crowd of families who cheered them on with thanks and appreciation as they walked a red carpet, raised high-fives and fist-bumps to their fans, and posed for photos as local celebrities. Collingswood Chief Academic Officer Brian Kulak announced staff members and school groups as they strolled the red carpet. Several local photographers provided more excitement by snapping photos along the carpet and against a backdrop.
Borough Commissioner Rob Lewandowski came up with the idea, but is quick to point out that the event was planned and executed by the community. It was not an official event.
“Community ownership of this event was important to me,” Lewandowski said. “I didn’t want the school district to own the event, though they certainly helped. I didn’t want the municipal government to own it either, though they likewise helped. I truly wanted this to be an authentic message from the community to our educators.”
Lewandowski also noted that there was a strategy behind the event.
“We wanted to give our teachers, in part, what they need to succeed in their jobs—community support,” Lewandowski said. “In a world where a tweet of negativity can echo through the halls and classrooms of our schools, it is imperative we drown out those voices with our own message of support and appreciation.”
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