Highlands second graders surprise teacher with show of appreciation

Highlands School 2nd-grade Teacher Cynthia Henderson was surprised and delighted when she stepped out of the school last week to see over a dozen students and parents cheering for all that she does during a time of remote learning.

Students and parents surprised Highlands School second-grade Teacher Cynthia Henderson on Friday to show their appreciation for her efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I was happy, sad, overwhelmed, and extremely gratified that my students surprised me with their presence, their beautiful signs, and their cheers of appreciation and thanks for my efforts to make this ‘Distance Learning’ as successful as I could,” she said.

Henderson makes videos she posts to a YouTube channel and emails parents each morning with pictures of the work from the packet that their child is to complete that day. She indicates which sheets are to be completed independently, and which will be completed while viewing the video. Henderson usually posts 2 videos a day, but has also added book reads to listen to before bed or whenever students can (not a requirement).

Henderson is often wearing a silly hat, costume, or dressed up as a book character as she reads to students, or while conducting drawing lessons or a science experiment. Plus, she uses students’ names to help them connect to the message of the day.

Cynthia Henderson said it was incredibly heartwarming seeing the surprise planned by students and parents.

“I try to personalize the video lessons as much as I can by referencing various students and I often use their names in examples as I go over the work in the video for them,” she said. “I conduct these wearing a silly hat or face mask. I thought a little humor might help this unique situation so I started dressing up for them to get a little chuckle out of them. I thought maybe doing the work at home might be a little bit easier if they started the day with a smile and a little laughter.”

Second-grader Justin Powell held a large sign of appreciation thanking Henderson for all that she has done throughout the remote-learning process.

“I miss working in class and working at my desk, but she does arts and crafts in her videos and makes it fun,” said Powell. “And she dresses up in fun costumes, even a storm trooper.”

Students made signs to say thank you without violating social distancing guidelines.

Second-grader Charlie Wilkes waved and cheered for Henderson and said her videos help him get the work done that he needs to.

“She makes a YouTube channel so we can do our work with her, and in one video she even mentioned me,” said Wilkes. Charlie’s mother Hilary said Henderson goes “above and beyond.”

“She has new videos every day, she walks the kids through each exercise, and she’s very detail oriented,” said Hilary. “They’re working harder than ever and her commitment is beautiful, we just wanted to say thank you.”

Henderson said the response from families has been exceptional.

“I applaud each and every one of my students,” she said. “I especially applaud the parents, who are managing this while still working their own full-time jobs, for meeting this challenge head on. I will be truthful, I have taught for 40 years, it is my passion. I absolutely LOVE being in the classroom. I love teaching young children. That being said, these past 8 weeks, I have worked much longer hours and it has been extremely challenging, more than ever before in my career.”

But she’s hanging in there and often concludes her messages to families with “we are team second grade! And we will get through this together.”

Article and photos by Brian O’Shea
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