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'It takes a team to educate a child'

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A group of New York Mills teachers got together this past summer to plan for the 125th Anniversary Celebration parade, and what they came up with was more than just a catchy phrase on the side of a float.

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It was the last day of school - a workshop day - when the teachers came up with the idea from a t-shirt in a magazine.

"It takes a team to educate a child" went from a theme on the teachers' float to a motto for the 2009-10 school year, and in the process developed into something that has brought staff a little closer together.

"We thought this would be a good way to show we need support from other people," sixth grade teacher Laurine Braukmann said. "We need support from our community and our parents, and all our school staff."

The teachers had t-shirts printed displaying the red, white and blue slogan in time for the parade. And the experience of coming together at the 125th Anniversary Celebration led to something bigger at the school.

After receiving positive feedback at the parade, the teachers decided to wear the t-shirts at the open house prior to the start of school. Teachers and staff also plan to wear the shirts each Friday this school year, as well as during conferences to show their commitment to a team effort in educating the students.

"We thought with all the cuts and the tough economy, it was kind of a positive thing to pull everybody together," said Rita Askew, who teaches 5th grade.

The idea for the t-shirts and to get as many people in the school involved came up while talking over root beer floats at a retirement get-together for teacher Carol Wilkowski.

From bringing people together to work on the parade float the ideas kept coming and led to the t-shirts and getting teachers, as well as support staff, getting involved in building a team to educate the students.

Second grade teacher Teri Bauck said the idea generated at the retirement party continues and has brought the elementary and high school teachers together, along with the support staff, who have all embraced the concept of, "It takes a team to educate a child."

The teachers hosted a pie and coffee social Sept. 16 and invited the bus drivers, custodians, and other support staff. The teachers thanked them for being a part of the team. The social also gave everybody an opportunity to sign up to purchase t-shirts.

During the parade the teachers smiled, waved and handed out pencils as the float made its way down Centennial Drive. The pencils and t-shirts were all purchased by the teachers, using money generated from their pop fund and other donations. They were encouraged by the community support and wanted to ride that wave of positivity into the start of the school year.

"We all have to depend on each other," Bauck said.

"Now, more than ever," Askew said, considering how much money teachers spend out of their own pockets for classroom supplies.

"I think that's been something our school and community have done very well. We've had such good community support and we hope that continues because we can't do it alone," Braukmann added.

The teachers said they heard many positive comments regarding the parade, in which some teachers rode on the float and others walked along and handed out pencils.

"It was exciting for people to see all the teachers out there," Bauck said. "I think they liked seeing us out there at a community event."

Starting with the parade, Askew said, one thing led to another and teachers decided they should wear the shirts to the open house. Then they had a sign with the motto made and it was hung up on the trophy case.

With the district going through budget cuts, the teachers admit there were some stressful times leading up to this school year. The parade, t-shirts, pie social, and bringing teachers together was something that helped start the year on a positive and uplifting note.

"Because of all the changes a lot of people were uncertain," Bauck said referring to budget cuts and staffing changes. "This really did pull our moral back up and united us."

Once all the shirts come in and people wear them on Fridays, the teachers expect to see a sea of red, white and blue in the hallways. Bauck praises Signs Plus and Norton Printing for printing enough t-shirts in time for the parade.

The teachers agree the t-shirt and parade project has been something that has really brought the school together. The elementary teachers are now connecting more with the high school teachers because this was something that started in the summer and they did outside of school.

"We are a team from the minute they (bus drivers) pick them up in the morning to the minute they drop them off at night," Askew said.

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