Teacher rallies community to donate games for kindergartners


OKEECHOBEE — Kindergarten teacher Cassandra McPeak said it has been a school year like no other, and she wanted to make this holiday season one to remember for her students. “As much as we are thrown off and having a hard time, we have to remember, our students are experiencing this as well,” she said.

This is McPeak’s first year as a kindergarten teacher. As a matter of fact, prior to this, she was a deaf interpreter, but she had to have a couple surgeries and took a year off. This year, she came in as a substitute, but a kindergarten teacher at Seminole Elementary School was unable to complete the year, and she is now, the more or less, permanent substitute for that class.

She has 16 students in her class and said they are a joy to work with. They come in smiling (under their masks of course) and happy every day and have such an eagerness to learn.

Earlier this month, McPeak posted on Facebook asking others if they would be willing to sponsor children in her classroom and buy them board games that they could take home with them. “Kids are constantly on technology and some of them have never experienced playing a board game! I have so many memories of spending quality time with my family playing games, and I want my students to have that too.” Her hope was to convince 16 people to each sponsor one child, so all of her students would end up with a board game of their very own. She was thrilled to find that within days, she had enough volunteers to get games, not just for her students, but for all the kindergarten classes in her school. Fellow teachers, Cristen Coleman, who originally brought the idea to McPeak’s attention, Bridgette Woodham, Addys Duhart and Shana Brown were ecstatic, to say the least.

The idea is growing too said co-conspirator Phylicia Cortes. “I know my daughter Rowan’s second grade class at South is doing it too. Cortes, who owns Glow Beauty Bar, offered her salon as a drop off/gathering spot for the gifts, and she and Bobbi Sue Carter, who works with her and happens to be McPeaks daughter will be helping with the huge job of wrapping all the games so they will be ready for distribution Friday morning. Bobbi Sue’s daughter Starr Ozolins will be helping as well.

McPeak can hardly wait for Friday morning when the children walk in and see the gift wrapped boxes on their desks, she said. “I’m so grateful to the community for the way they jumped in to make this special for the children.”