IMMOKALEE - Here at Collier County Public Schools, we love to see teachers share and collaborate. In this time of eLearning, we’re seeing it more and more. Teachers working together, bringing the best out of each other to ultimately benefit our students. So we weren’t surprised to see a special project that was put together by two teachers right here from Immokalee High School—The Gratitude Project.
The Gratitude Project was a group effort by Mrs. Samantha White and Mrs. Erin Hodge. “Erin and I quickly bonded early this school year when she moved into the classroom next door to me,” shares White. The connection is no surprise considering they discovered they grew up within 15 minutes of each other in Michigan!
“Erin approached me with the idea to send pictures and letters to Naples Community Hospital (NCH), thanking the staff there for everything they are doing to help keep our community safe,” adds White. “I loved the idea and proposed taking things one step further by creating a video that could be posted to Twitter, highlighting what our students were doing.”
Hodge came up with the idea by hearing stories from her brother, Danny, who is an EMT in Michigan. “I can’t help but feel grateful and also protective toward him. It got me thinking about the hospital staff and first responders here in Florida who are doing their best to keep our communities safe during the pandemic.”
Together, the teachers explained the inspiration behind the idea to their students. “I’ve really tried to teach my students a lot of life lessons throughout the year,” explains Hodge. “It has been important to me now more than ever to continue teaching these life lessons rather than overwhelming my students with traditional assignments.”
White, who teaches Journalism, TV Production, and Yearbook, felt it was also important to document this moment in time. “As I started thinking about how I wanted to form my classes over the next few weeks of eLearning, I kept thinking that the COVID-19 pandemic is something that no one has experienced. I wanted to find a way to encourage my students to document this time so that they could look back on this in 50 years and remember how they felt and what was going through their minds.”
The kids really took the idea and ran with it. White and Hodge received many letters and video submissions offering personal thanks to our frontline workers. The letters were mailed to NCH, while a video was created and shared using each of the student video submissions. Here is just one example:
I would like to thank every single one of you for your sacrifices. We understand that you are unable to spend time with your family and friends. We understand the long hours that you must work to try and contain COVID-19. Putting yourselves in risk of contracting the virus as we stay home will never be forgotten or unappreciated. So I greatly thank you from the bottom of my heart.” - Alex G.
For White and Hodge, it was emotional to see their students expressing themselves in such a vulnerable and mature way. “Knowing our students made such an inspirational impact on those heroes brought on a new level of pride for our school and community. We feel honored to have played a small role in their massive impact.”