TK Board of Education President Kristen Cove told all staff that working in education she believes, is a noble calling. She asked the staff to take care of each other and to take care of the 3,300 students who are coming into the buildings this week. “Some of them (students) have not been in the buildings in 17 months,” she reminded them. “I ask that we all show a little grace, a little patience and love.”
She shared one of her favorite Maya Angelou quotes, "You may not control all the events that happen to you but you can decide not to be reduced by them."
“We cannot control what has happened in the last 17 months and we certainly can’t control what might happen in the future. But we can choose kindness and love and to take care of each other,” she said.
Staff members were greeted Monday morning with a high-spirited school fight song played by the TK Trojan Marching Band that literally filled the entire auditorium stage. Staff rose to clap, sing along, and ignite their school spirit.
“Wow! What a great reminder of why we all work here,” said Superintendent Dan Remenap who is beginning his first full school year with the district after being hired in December 2020.
He echoed much the same sentiment as Cove in caring and supporting each other and all students through some very difficult times. After sharing an inspiring video about the value of everyone, he acknowledged the contributions of everyone working within the district in all capacities. “I know some of you are sitting there thinking “I’m just a bus driver. I’m just a cafeteria worker. I’m just a playground supervisor." There are no “JUSTAs” at TK. You are part of a valuable team. There is value in everybody. Every single one of our students has value. Whatever your role is, you have great value to us. And it is our job to find the value in every single one of our students.”
He said he wants staff to focus on what teaching is all about and drown out the debates over masks, vaccines and politics. “We’re going to keep the noise outside of TK Schools so you can have a singular focus on loving our kids and finding their value.”
He challenged staff to do two things this year:
1) “Please ask for help sometime in the next two weeks. We are going to need each other this year. Is this year going to be perfect? Are we going to agree on everything? No. But we have to stay together and keep our singular focus on loving our kids, loving one another and supporting each other. Our kids need you. While we have distractions, I want to encourage you with a singular focus of just loving our kids and I want you to find the joy in a profession that should be inherently joyful.”
2) “My second challenge is that I would like all of you to absolutely love your most challenging student. They need you the most.”
Lani Forbes with Barry County United Way, and Annie Halle and Craig Stolsonburg with Barry Community Foundation and Thornapple Area Enrichment Foundation, also encouraged the staff to care for kids and call on their organizations when help is needed.
Forbes said the United Way has delivered more than 1 million pounds of food in the last year to needy families and provided more than $750,000 in direct assistance. Just recently, she said, 267 students in Barry County schools were able to pick out new backpacks, school supplies and new shoes. Books are being put in the hands of young children ages 0 to 5 years old through Imagination Library.
“It’s all available because so many of you donate money from each pay period to help. One hundred percent of your gift goes to services and stays in Barry County,” she said.
Halle said the foundation gave out 35 scholarships in the last year and provided more than $60,000 in classroom and teacher grants to TK in the last two years. She said funds are available for grants again this year and encouraged teachers to apply for classroom needs.
Staff members spent the rest of the day in building meetings, staff development sessions and preparing for students returning to the buildings Tuesday.