The teachers and staff of Mahaffey Middle School put their heads together and found a way to give their eighth-grade students a final farewell as they prepare to move onto high school in the fall.

Thirty volunteers and teachers met at the middle school May 20 to prepare for their surprise. They decorated their vehicles and got ready to distribute 163 handmade pennants, which congratulate each student’s hard work and elevation to high school freshman.

“They are our kids, even the teachers who don’t teach eighth grade insisted on coming,” said Principal Linda Haberman. “All of the kids belong to all of us here at our school.”

The teachers and staff previously met over the weekend to make the pennants and organize how they would distribute one to each of the eighth-grade students.

“We all came up with different ideas and Ms. Haberman came up with the pennant idea,” said Max Klinock, math teacher. “We weren’t sure if we were going to be able to go to each house, but we were able to get permission. I put all of the addresses on the maps and broke each area into groups. We have eight teams of teachers going to the different areas on the map to visit all 163 students.”

For many of the teachers, this was a chance to say goodbye and wish their students luck as they transition to high school.

“It’s like a promotion, they didn’t come back to school so we wanted to visit them and say good luck,” Klinock said. “It’s an unusual time, we just want to make sure the students know we love them and care about them and send them off to high school in a positive way.”

The teams split up, taking different housing areas on post in a colorful parade where they stopped at each eighth-grade student’s home, honking and cheering as they gave them their pennants.

“I think it’s great,” said Stephanie Pretlow, parent. “I think the transition to online learning, on our end as parents and students, it seemed seamless. I know it was a lot of hard work on their end. I’m sure it wasn’t seamless for them, but for us it was. For them to take the time to recognize how our kids have been affected in a big way and to put this together, it’s just amazing to me.”

Pretlow and many of the other parents and students made signs for the teachers to thank them for everything they had done over the school year.

“We appreciate all of their efforts,” Pretlow said. “The entire school year has been a great experience, and I think it just makes it that much better they took the time out to do this for our kids. I made a sign because I wanted them to know, even though we can’t get too close, that we appreciate them.”

Sisters Morgan and Mikaela plastered their front lawn with homemade signs to show their thanks, especially to their AVID teachers and tutors.

“The beginning of the school year, they did so much for us, and even when we switched to virtual school, they never stopped,” Morgan said.

The sisters said even when virtual learning got hard, their teachers never gave up on them.

“Even when we wanted to give up, they never let us give up,” Mikaela said. “They are doing this for us, and we just want them to know how much we love and care about them too. It’s exciting to see them, it means a lot to have them here.”

Despite the unusual ending to the school year, many of the students and parents agreed they finished on a positive note because of the hard work from their Mahaffey Middle School educators.

“The end of the school year was still really good, even though it was virtual we were still able to communicate,” said Elena Zimmerman, student. “We were still able to learn a lot and talk about things. Though I wish we had been in actual school, we ended up able to do it.”

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