It was a warm spring day when Jenison’s sixth grade ACT students filed into Karen Weaver’s classroom for the final time. The mood was thankful. Innocent.
Next year they’ll find themselves moving from room to room in a much larger school, but deep down they’ll always be knit together. They’ll always be family. That’s because this handful of students has been learning and growing together since they began their third grade year.
This past year was a special one for ACT and for the community they touched. Working together, the classes began a Kindness Project. They brainstormed ways to show compassion to individuals who needed an extra smile or a helping hand, and then they encouraged the recipient to “pass it on.”
What began with collecting phone books for Habitat for Humanity slowly expanded to include gathering canned goods, preparing meals for elderly neighbors, and planting money in geocaching locations, to name a few. With students directing 90% of the projects, Mrs. Weaver guided and reminded them that “…kindness is the right thing to do!”
Students involved in the ACT program have shown gifts in the areas of academic studies, leadership, creativity, and motivation. Once admitted, they spend one morning or one afternoon a week with Mrs. Weaver in a small setting which focuses heavily on mathematics, logical thinking, creative problem solving, and project-based learning. They also compete in the Continental National Math Competition regularly, and this year’s 4th grade was recognized as having the highest score in the midwest!
But more than the accomplishments or projects, the one resounding message shared by these kids was that they’ll miss this place of safety and inclusion. One student shared, “It’s very comfortable to be in here — it’s always fun to learn something new.”
Another admitted, “I can be myself. I don’t have to worry about fitting in. People accept me here.”
After years of operating like pseudo brothers and sisters, these kids now feel the sting that comes with change. And what they’ll miss most is the teacher who helped the pieces fit together a little bit tighter; who sat close by while they wrestled through a challenge or brainstormed a different solution to an old problem.
They’ll miss the teacher who delivered an extra slice of sunshine every week to kids who couldn’t wait to bask in the light.
“I can’t remember school without ACT. It’s going to be really sad to leave. You just feel warm and happy being in here … and so much is because of Mrs. Weaver.”