INDIAN TRAIL – When Sardis Elementary School second-grade teacher Jennifer Cooper heard her teacher assistant’s son-in-law would be deployed from his post in Germany to Afghanistan, she felt compelled to do something to acknowledge him.
So, Cooper’s students and other second-grade classes wrote letters of encouragement and created a banner to send to Chief Warrant Officer 2 Christopher Hesse of the U.S. Army to thank him for his service and remind him that people back home were thinking of him.
“My teacher assistant last year, Ms. Judy Shannon, mentioned … her family was compiling a care package to send to Chris,” Cooper explained in an email. “After hearing this, I immediately told Judy our second-grade class would be more than willing to support Chris and his fellow troops in anyway we could. I told her our class would write letters to him thanking him for his service to our country.”
Cooper requested other second-grade teachers, including Dee Cochran, Kelly Hughes, Nicole Skeen and Danielle Goodrich, to participate in writing letters and creating the handprint banner for Hesse and his unit. The classes were able to integrate the letter writing with the school’s curriculum.
“At Sardis, we are constantly integrating global awareness within the curriculum we teach,” Cooper wrote. “This specific project integrated both letter writing and geographical studies. When children are able to have an understanding of the diverse world we live in, they genuinely learn how to be compassionate and show empathy for those in need and who need our support.
“Because of this project, the children have learned they are able to go to school, and to learn, have choices in the books they want to believe, they are able to express the opinions they have, believe what they want to believe, wear what they want, play the sports the want (and) listen to the music they want because of the freedoms we have.”
Cochran felt the letter writing taught students multiple lessons, including the need to show respect for those who serve in the armed forces because “even if they don’t understand exactly what the military does for our country, they need to know that they are protecting us and we need to respect and honor what they are doing for us,” she said.
The class also used the opportunity to share about their family members who are serving or who served in the military, while Hesse’s mother shared various pictures of her son-in-law.
“I also talk to my students about how those serving our country are often away from their families in other countries and how they must feel,” Cochran said. “We talk about how they as students feel when they get letters in the mail – the same is true of our military. It puts a smile on their face, even though they don’t know us, when they receive that letter, post card or picture.”
Hesse received the letters and banner on July 16. In a letter to students, he wrote, “I received the box with all the letters. It was awesome. I really enjoyed reading them,” according to the school’s website.
Cooper plans to continue to support Hesse and his fellow troops with care packages and letters in the upcoming school year.
“I truly believe teaching children to understand men and women are working every single day while giving up their own freedom so we can have ours is one of the greatest lessons of life students can be taught,” she wrote.