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They are everyday heroes in Jordan School District, ready to help students find success in school despite having no real place to call home. On this episode of the Supercast, we meet several McKinney-Vento Liaisons and find out how they manage to make life just a little bit better for students experiencing a wide range of homelessness.

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<h2>Audio Transcription</h2>

Anthony Godfrey:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. On this episode of the Supercast, we learned about something our guests call a labor of love. We're talking about helping students in need as part of the McKinney Vento program. It is a federal program that exists to help students succeed in school, despite having no real place to call home, or for those students who may need just a little extra support, let's start by hearing from Hilda Lloyd who oversees the McKinney Vento program, and several amazing women who act as program liaisons for students in need. Thanks for being on the Supercast. Thank you for having us. Can you tell us for those who may not be familiar? What is McKinney Vento? First of all,

Hilda Lloyd:
Bento is a program that is designed to help children that have some type of hardship. My job is to help the schools to get these kids enrolled, immediately able to meet the criteria to graduate. We work with the elementary level middle school and high school level.

Anthony Godfrey:
Can you describe for those listening, how that set up in our district

Hilda Lloyd:
In the elementary level we have when they first come in or identify them as families that are not living in a home or in shelters, or if they're on their own living with grandparents due to circumstances, we have ladies there that provide services for them. Yeah.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's providing support to help them navigate school, given all of the difficulties that they're experiencing in life outside of school. Correct. How many people do we have helping our homeless students

Hilda Lloyd:
In our high schools? We have one in every school, but the new schools also with the middle schools and we have the elementary with the homeless liaisons there for the reason, if it's mostly title one schools, not everyone has it. We put them in there as the time comes, if the numbers are high so that we can meet the needs of those students.

Anthony Godfrey:
What misconceptions might people have about students who qualify for services under McKinney-Vento

Hilda Lloyd:
Families come in and they may not look a certain way, so they just don't reach out. Or sometimes the families don't realize this program even exist. So that's why it's so important to have the people that work under this program to kind of look and identify them as they come into the office and have women there that ask the right questions so they can explain to them that they could have help with this program that we have in the Jordan school district. And that's pretty much how we find the students that need this help.

Anthony Godfrey:
So asking the right questions as they come in, because it's not always obvious.

Hilda Lloyd:
Yes. And we also do a lot of training during the school year so that we can prepare the secretaries and the main office in which they are wonderful to work with. So they can actually call or notify who is over that program in their schools so that they can get help right away.

Anthony Godfrey:
When students have difficulty in their home life, they may not know where they're going to be staying, or they don't have food security. It makes it pretty tough to learn. Doesn't it? It does. How long have you been working with McKinney Vento?

Hilda Lloyd:
About 15, 16 years.

Anthony Godfrey:
I remember back a long ways and you've always been helping students. So we sure appreciate it. You have a really exciting statistic to share this year. Tell me about that.

Hilda Lloyd:
Well, we've been working on mostly we target a lot of the high population and we've come to some programs that we feel like in that help the kids. And we kind of push that more on the education of graduation. So we try to work mostly with that because we feel like if we can actually get some of these kids to graduate, we will change the whole dynamics of their family. In the past years, we've had between a hundred to 125 students to graduate. And out of those, we have maybe four that don't graduate because they come into our district too late, but we finish them and guide them till the end of the school year, which is in August or else, we help them go through the adult ed to make sure that they do graduate. But this year I was worried because of what was happening and the connection and the kids coming to school. But because of the women is nonstop, just encouraging these kids here, we had 154 students that were going to be graduating from our four high schools, five high schools, excuse me. And with the help of the counselors, the principals and the support and the wonderful work women have done, we believe it or not. All of them graduated

Anthony Godfrey:
And graduated on time on time. That is incredible. When you think about what's going on in their lives and the pandemic on top of that for 100% to graduate on time, must be very rewarding for you and your team.

Hilda Lloyd:
It is because I, like I said, I think we have been a step of ahead of all this, because we have stepped the bar up every year and told these kids, and these women just have been, you know, they've been trained, they know what to expect and what they need to do to help these kids to be successful. And they just knew how to reach out. And what's so great about it is the training that they also get involved with with the other staff in the school and explain to them and help them. And these kids hear from one another, you know, this program exists. You can go get help and you know, they never turn anybody away. Even if they're not McKinney, Vento students, they're there for them. And that's what makes it work is everybody works together because they understand hardship and they made it very clear what hardship is because they, they teach it. They understand it.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, let's talk with a couple of the ladies. Who've been helping these students get across the finish line, Laura Faulkner at Herriman. Thanks for joining us.

Speaker 4:
Thanks for having me. I'm real excited about this. How long have you been at Harrison? Well, I've been at Herrmann cruel for about two and a half years. In the McKinney Vento, this was my first full year do McKinney Vento.

Anthony Godfrey:
You want to switch over and start helping in the McKinney Vento area.

Speaker 4:
I love helping people. And last year my position was helping students with feeling great. This was a no brainer in my past positions for 21 years, I've been in positions of helping in the scene to people and just wanting to make their lives better or something that can help them move along.

Anthony Godfrey:
What are some of the obstacles that you have helped people overcome?

Speaker 4:
Some of these kids come in and they don't know how to talk to their parents sometimes about things, or they don't know how to talk to a counselor, or they're afraid to go into there and I'm like, I'll go with you. Let's go to that. You know? And so I've been able to walk them into the account or we've been able to sit down and the three of us brainstorm

Anthony Godfrey:
Some of the details of what they're going through is just heartbreaking. Like you said, there so much that we take for granted that students are hoping for and don't have a day to day.

Speaker 4:
They're also scared to ask. That is the one thing I, you know, they're, they're embarrassed. They're they don't know how they're afraid that somebody's going to find out. And that's what we're trying to do is trying to help. I leveling the playing field a little bit, let them know they're going to have the same opportunities as anybody else in that school. And we're going to mix up and if they want to sing, we're going to help them sing.

Anthony Godfrey:
I love that, that you, that you're going to help them. And you're, you're their connection with the broader world because their world is pretty small without you. I would guess

Speaker 4:
Some of them, it is, you know, some just broaden and they go, but some are just, they're scared or they have different social anxieties or, and that's what we're there for. And they can come into my office and say, Hey, can I have a snack? And a lot of time checks come in and ask for that, just to say hi, just to have that personal connection.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's fantastic. And I'm so glad the kids have you, what do you wish people knew about students who need this kind of help?

Speaker 4:
People knew that their all around them and not to judge and not to, you know, think that because this person is dressing this way or that way, that it's a reason to send them or make them feel less because they're not learning on their same plane, burning. Some kids learn differently. And one of the things that taught all my students as a mom of kids, I've always kids, you know, I don't expect perfection. I don't expect straight A's. I want you to do the best you can graduate. And that's what I'm here to help you do.

Anthony Godfrey:
Yeah. That's great. That's the goal. Do your best and graduate. If there are folks listening to this who think I'd like to help kids that are in need, that, that don't have that security in their life, what can they do to help? Are there donations that that can help or things they can do?

Speaker 4:
Donations have been amazing at Herrmann with just some of the basics that we take for granted, it could be hands-off, it could be a new water bottle that they can claim there because people like to feel comfortable, whether it be at school or at home.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thank you. And they can donate that directly to the school or through the foundation. Well thank you for everything you're doing Laura. I know it makes a difference in their lives now and in their lives later because you give them the skills and the confidence to move forward in life and, and, and make their own path away from maybe some of the difficulties they've experienced.

Speaker 4:
Yeah. And just to let them know that we have compassion that we understand, everybody goes through hard times at some time or another.

Anthony Godfrey:
Thank you. Let's talk now with Mary Ellen Helton from Riverton, how are you Mary Ellen, tell me a little bit about some of the students at Riverton that you've been helping and, and what have they been facing and what have you able to do to help them get, get their, get across the finish line?

Speaker 5:
Oh, that was a big battle this year, but some of them have been mainly the stress of going from going to school to having to rush, to get on the computer and try to navigate getting their area assignments, taken care of online and to communicate with their teachers have students that are bilingual. I don't speak Spanish or Portuguese. So I had find my translator from school and, and get some communications going with them so they can actually graduate and be successful.

Anthony Godfrey:
So you help with housing, transportation, food, clothing, really every aspect of survival. Yes. Of all the students you work with. Can you tell us some of the personal struggles they've had to overcome to, to graduate?

Speaker 5:
Oh, I had one student was overwhelmed with stress and his mom, dad had to work night and day just to keep things going because they were not sure if they're going to have a job one day to the next. So he was overwhelmed with that situation and trying to navigate, going to school online. He made it, I mean, we, it took a lot of pushing and a lot of coaching him to say, you can do this. We were I'm behind you 100%. If you need any help, just get ahold of me. And he did. Yes.

Anthony Godfrey:
He had been working at Riverton.

Speaker 5:
This is my third year.

Anthony Godfrey:
And what made you want to work with students who qualify for McKinney Vento health?

Speaker 5:
Well, I started out working with special ed Claire back in 95 with transportation being the school bus aide. Yeah. And just a love of working with children until I had my own. And then I work with jams, the Jordan alternative middle school, helping them to break the barrier of learning, how to study and to find a potential. And then I can't see it, a child going hungry or without need. And so when this job opened up, I just, I just had to go for it.

Anthony Godfrey:
Well, I love that, that you're there. I love that all of you are there in the positions where you are from your stories earlier. It sounds as if Mary Ellen, you end up speaking with kids at various times of the day and night. Is that right?

Speaker 5:
I do not now, but during the school year I do. And making sure they're okay.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's good. They have a lifeline. And as was mentioned earlier, I suspect you need to reach out to them sometimes because it's difficult to ask for help. Tell me a bit about how you overcome that barrier. When kids don't want to ask for help, adults don't want to ask for help. A lot of times, even in much less dire circumstances than these kids are in. So how do you help connect them to resources when they may be reluctant?

Speaker 5:
I, I walked the halls during the lunch times and I watched the students. I watched my, the ones that I know are on my list. And I, I can see if they are kind of closed off or just kind of keeping to themselves. And I go over to them and say, you need to come talk to me and they'll come talk to me or I'll see them check in late. And I go, okay, what's going on? Did you get up late? Or, you know, just checking in and see are all calmed down. If I see their grades start slipping and say what's going on and just, Oh, I always check in on my students. All 52 of them, the share.

Anthony Godfrey:
It's very moving just to hear the idea that kids need a refuge and you're there for them.

Speaker 5:
You know, it's overwhelming sometimes to see the students go through what they have to do at a young age. They shouldn't, I mean, they're not adults yet. And they're facing adult situations.

Anthony Godfrey:
I'm sure it means the world to them to have somebody to lean on and the place to go, to collect themselves and to go out and face the stress that they have to deal with. Again, every time I think about it, I just am amazed that the compassion you show and just what a lifeline, you all are to kids that need need you the very most. So thank you. Thank you. And stay with us. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, what parents should know about this program designed to help students through trying times

Speaker 6:
I'm Steven Hall, director of Jordan education foundation in today's challenging and uncertain times, it is more important than ever before to support one another here at the Jordan education foundation, we invite you to join us in making sure children are not going hungry. Your $10 donation to the foundation will help us feed one student for a weekend. When food and meals may be very scarce for some, with food and hygiene supplies in the principal's pantries at Jordan school districts being depleted and in higher demand than ever before. Every financial contribution made will help us to keep the pantries filled for students who would otherwise go without the Jordan education foundation exists due to the generosity of people who care about kids. If you would like to donate to help children from going hungry, please visit Jordan education, foundation.org, or contact the foundation at (801) 567-8125. Thank you together. We can make a difference.

Anthony Godfrey:
We're back now

Speaker 7:
Talking about the incredible work being done in the districts, McKinney Vento program. I really, really appreciate that you would take the time to talk with me and I really appreciate what you guys do. I can't even express it. It's awesome.

Speaker 8:
Well, thank you. It's a very wonderful thing to be part of. I love it.

Speaker 7:
How long have you, how long have you been at West Jordan?

Speaker 8:
Just one year. I started here in August last year. Yeah.

Speaker 7:
And what have you learned about students who qualify for services under McKinney-Vento in that time?

Speaker 8:
Oh my goodness. So many things. A lot of the federal program is for homeless students, but most of the time I work with kids who have a home in one form or another, but they're disadvantaged and needing food and clothes and validation and support, but we work with, you know, whoever needs our, whoever needs us to provide some support.

Speaker 7:
What are some of the things that you're able to do for students?

Speaker 8:
They have a lot of resources. If they come to me, I have all kinds of food and snacks. And I have clothing, coats, socks, shoes, high chain products, and school supplies endless amounts of things I can do to help if I can just find those who need it. That's part of my challenges, finding students who are willing and able and needy to come in and talk to me.

Speaker 7:
What are some of the things that have surprised you about the situations students find themselves in?

Speaker 8:
I think, you know, one of the biggest surprises at first may not be specifically as a student, but when I first started, I had people say, Hey, I have donations. I'd love to give. And many, many people give so much. And I'm so grateful for that. But as I went through, I found that students of any kind would like to fit in and they just to say, Oh, students homeless. They wouldn't mind having these clothes or those shoes, but they do, of course they're high school kids and all of us would. And so I learned that they would like to fit in and I can't just offer anything. And we try to get donations of new or gently used things that students can feel like they have dignity too.

Speaker 7:
In other words, if you're making a donation, it's nice to donate something that isn't nearly used out or long out of style, something that can be used to allow kids to blend. And when you say that, that really resonates. If we all think back, we can really think about the time when we were in middle school or in high school. And we just didn't want to draw undue attention, especially if we fell awkward about a particular aspect of our lives. And, and if, if you're eating a place to stay or you don't have food security, the last thing you want to do probably is stain that animal.

Speaker 8:
That is absolutely true. I think all of us can relate. Like you say, who didn't have a time when they felt that way. And surely as I went through and talked to students, I bring him in to let them look through what we have and just immediately off the bat, I started to see that, that they care as much as any of us care and maybe they do already feel like they stand out, you know, in their heart. They feel that way. And now we can help them to at least feel like they fit in. So I started being very particular about what I, you know, would have, as far as donations, I did have to take some things to DEI and I had to go through and be really particular. But now when people ask what they can give, I I'm very specific so that we know we have what the students can really use.

Speaker 7:
And do you find that you help students throughout the year, do you have some students just need help on a short-term basis and some on a long-term basis?

Speaker 8:
Yes, absolutely. There are students that come in and have stories and I, and you know, they are struggling in family situations or being alone and I help them all along the year, but I've had students come in who just need a little here and there. In fact during the Corona virus issues at the school, I recall and check on students on my list. And I had some parents who say, Oh, we ran out of a job, but we're doing fine now. Everything's good. And then others who just are really struggling through whatever their challenges might be. And I have helped them all along the way.

Speaker 7:
Are there times when you think students need a connection with someone that they can rely on at the school as much as anything?

Speaker 8:
Yeah. I think that's one of the most important things is that getting to their level of, I need blah, I need help. I need validation. I need people who I can trust and who I can come to without feeling. Like I'm not as good as others. And that's part of what the joy I find in my job is helping them feel like they're, they're okay, there's good as those around them. And I help them learn to love themselves,

Speaker 7:
Helping them learn to love themselves. That makes a lot of sense. That's, that's a hard thing as we're going through the hard times. Yes. Your dads are there, is there a particular story some experience that you've had that would help those who may not understand the magnitude of the problems that some students face, maybe we'll understand that.

Speaker 8:
I, yes, I do have stories that are heartwarming and heartbreaking. One of the ones that stands out to me as I had a girl come in and I had given, been given her name, she was on my list and I was just getting to know her called her in. And I said, so how you doing? And what's going on? And she told me a little about her circumstances and she really had a hard life of what she came from. And I said, well, can I help you? I have food here. I have this and that. She said, Oh no, I'm sure other people need it more than I do. I'm fine. And so I went through some more and finally she said, well, I do need a coat. And I said, Oh, I've got a coat. I said, come with me. So we went down to my room and walked in and she still was just very reluctant.

Speaker 8:
And so I just coaxed her along, Oh, look, we have, we have some socks here. And look, we have shirts, some cute shirts and I have a jacket and coat and we just went through shampoo and all, and she ended up with a big, huge bag of things. And I just had to really reassure her along the way that this was okay. And it's all right, that she needed it. And at the very end, she picked up her sack. And then she said, can I give you a hug? And I said, sure. And I gave her a hug and she started to cry and said, you've been more like a mom to me than anybody has been in a very long time. And it was just the sweetest thing to see, you know, she didn't need any help. She was okay. But really she did need so much help. And she finally was able to allow me to help her. And it just was a joyous thing for both of us.

Speaker 7:
I'm so glad she had you.

Speaker 8:
I'd glad to have that experience. You can imagine what that meant to me.

Speaker 7:
Well, I'm sure that there are stories every day, how you've touched lives and set kids on the trajectory for success, where they can escape some of the difficulties in their lives and overcome their circumstances to create a life for themselves that is productive and happy. And I'm just so grateful. They have you.

Speaker 8:
Oh, thank you. I feel, I just feel so happy to be able to help.

Speaker 7:
What advice would you give students or parents? If they need help or know someone who needs help?

Speaker 8:
One of the first things they need to do is to be able to trust enough to come in. And sometimes a friend can say, Oh, you can go in and they can help you. Or if I have their name and call them down. But the, the first step is to feel like, okay, I can do this. And sometimes it's true. Parents have different attitudes. I actually had a young lady come in and she, you would never know she needed help. He got, she was very intelligent and outgoing and son. And one day she came in and said, you know, it's not always what it seems like on the outside. And she was hungry and needed help. And, and we were able to do it very discreetly and help her. And she was so grateful, but I would have never known. And I think your family was like, Oh no, no, no, we, we don't need help. We're fine. But she, wasn't fine. And so having her come in and find out what's good. And when other families say, you know what, we have this temporary setback and we would really appreciate some help. Cause it's hard to ask. We would all rather give than receive.

Speaker 7:
I like the advice that if you know of a friend who needs help, you can, you can connect them to those services because sometimes that's difficult. But also sometimes we just don't even realize that people are going to my help.

Speaker 8:
That is absolutely true. Actually that's the biggest part of my job is to find those who are reluctant to come in, who really do need help. I think word spreads. And sometimes I had a student who brought in another student and I had been with him for a while and helped him. And he brought in a girl and said, see, she's okay. You can talk to her. It's it's trying to get help. And that's exactly what brings them man sometimes is, is finding a friend that they can trust to bring them in talk.

Speaker 7:
I have no doubt. They deeply appreciate your friendship and compassion and your help. Thank you for spending the time on the super cast Robin, Luke from West Jordan high school. Thank you. Thanks for listening to this episode of the super cast. And remember education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see you out there. [inaudible].

 

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They drive to each and every Jordan School District school and department each and every day, delivering mail and so much more. Matt Gardner and Jeramie Velarde have been on the job for a combination of 46 years. In that time, they have earned a reputation for “people first” and putting a smile on the faces of everyone they encounter. On this episode of the Supercast, we find out what drives Matt and Jeremy and uncover some well-kept secrets about the District’s “Dynamic Duo.”

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<h2>Audio Transcription</h2>

Superintendent:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Superintendent. They are Jordans school district's mail delivery dynamic duo. We're talking about Matt Gardner and Jeremy Velarde who have been on the job for a total of 46 years. They have a reputation for delivering a lot of laughter and Goodwill as they travel the entire district every day, making sure a massive amount of mail arrives to its intended destination. On time today, we find out what really drives men and Jeremy, and we uncover some of their relatively well kept secrets. We call this episode, the Matt and Jeremy show. Now Matt, in addition to being one of the most positive people I know is one of the employees at the auxiliary services building who helps deliver the mail throughout the district. What's your official title, Matt,

Matt Gardner:
On my name badge. It says drivers driver. All right. Pretty efficient

Superintendent:
Would go with driver because I know that's what you love to do actually. Isn't it, Matt?

Matt Gardner:
Yes. Yes. What drives you? Mad? people. I love people.

Superintendent:
Yes. Yes you do. Do you ever not smile? Let me ask you that first off.

Matt Gardner:
No, it was kind of a bad habit. So when I should be in trouble,

Superintendent:
There's a, there's a reason we have used map for so many of our customer service presentations and videos over the years, Matt, like I said is one of the most positive people you'll meet. Matt. How long have you worked for the district?

Matt Gardner:
23 years. April 1st? Yeah. I don't know if that was an omen for me or you guys that I got hired on April fool's day, but what

Superintendent:
Was your first job with Jordan school? District

Matt Gardner:
Driver driver worked in the warehouse for the first 10 years. Yeah.

Superintendent:
And as you're, as you're driving around now as a warehouse driver, you were delivering and now you deliver mail and small packages is that right?

Matt Gardner:
Whatever they put on my van, I deliver. So it's yeah. Packages or envelopes, whatever, whatever they need for the day. So, yeah.

Superintendent:
And you share routes with Jeremy Velarde. Is that correct? That is correct. Yes. And Jeremy's been at it for a while as well, has he not?

Matt Gardner:
Yeah. I think he's been in with the district for 20 or 21 years, so, and we've worked pretty much hand in hand together for all that time. So yeah.

Superintendent:
Now do you, do you each go describe, describe your route. Describe a typical day for Matt Gardner.

Matt Gardner:
I get up at five 15 in the morning, comb my hair.

Superintendent:
If you knew Matt you'll know that combing the hair does not take very long. Yeah,

Matt Gardner:
No, not very long. We get to work about six o'clock in the morning, a little before six, we load our vehicles with the schools that we have. There's two routes for the school district. One pretty much encompasses daybreak and all of West Jordan and the other one takes over the rest of South Jordan Herrmann bluff Del Riverton area. And then we just kind of divide and conquer and go out there and try to make everybody happy and spread a little bit of sunshine while we're delivering our, you know, all the mail.

Superintendent:
How long does it take you to visit every school? Is it over a couple of days you ended up visiting every building or a couple of times a week.

Matt Gardner:
We go to every school every single day and delivered to the district office twice a day. So we're seeing and making contact with every school every day.

Superintendent:
I'm very envious of that actually, because I would love to be able to visit schools a lot more than I'm able to, especially more than I've been able to lately. What do you find when you visit schools? What do you see? I'll bet you learn a lot about a school even from dropping in for a moment. Just what their day is like and how things are going.

Matt Gardner:
Well, you get to know the personality of the office staff. You sometimes get to know the person out personality of the school and just, I mean, you can tell from the principals down how something's ran, just the enthusiasm or the way that they go about things and each individual school, because they are individual things, as far as it goes, every one of them is a little bit different and you can kind of tell. And as, as the school district boost principals from place to place, sometimes that same culture or the, the way that the school is changes with the principal. So you can see that it is kind of a top-down

Superintendent:
Situation sometimes that's fascinating. So even the, the short amount of time that you spend in a school, you can tell, Oh, this principal's here now. And now this school feels like their previous school. Yes.

Matt Gardner:
Yeah. It happens quite a bit.

Superintendent:
What do you learn from visiting schools about how to treat people? Well, I guess

Matt Gardner:
That I've, I've learned that being enthusiastic and positive and treating everybody with the utmost respect. And that includes every kid that walks in the doors is a friend, everybody that I come in contact with, whether it's a custodial staff, office, staff, teachers, administrators you know the, the lunch managers have lunch workers. Everybody, you know, is somebody that needs to, I think, I guess be inspired a little bit. That is kind of how I look at it. I look at as delivering the mail is the simple part of the job. The part that takes the effort, the part that has to have the thought put into it is how I treat people and how kind, you know, you are to others and, and, and some aspects. I know it sounds maybe a little bit corny, but showing them love

Superintendent:
It doesn't sound corny at all. I've seen you do it. I've seen you do it many times. And sometimes it's in the form of just listening. I have walked by and seen you just listening to people and it's, you're, you're becoming a really important part of their day.

Matt Gardner:
Yeah. And, and that's kind of by design. I think I was taught, I guess with my family. I came from a family of eight kids, so we all had to learn to listen. We all also had to learn to be loud and talk a lot also if you wanted to be her, but she did learn from an early age that you could make an impact on others just by your daily actions.

Superintendent:
Well, you're certainly the epitome of that. You I really cannot overstate how positive and friendly you are. And, you know, sometimes when you see someone you kind of calculate was I, you know, or I do, was I supposed to call that person? Or what do we need to talk about? And when I see Matt, it's just, I get to see Mac and it's, you know, it's going to be positive every time.

Matt Gardner:
Well then I guess I'm doing my job well,

Superintendent:
And you are, you are doing your job. What I think is remarkable is that you drive all day and you deal with traffic and where people can be at their worst. And yet you maintain that positivity.

Matt Gardner:
Yeah. Well, I've gotten used to people trying to run me off the roads, so,

Superintendent:
Okay. So I have to ask you then, because you're driving around all day, what are some tips that you've learned along the way as well?

Matt Gardner:
Our time schedule, how I do my route is based upon when parents are showing up to schools, what time schools are getting in. If it's an elementary school, the middle school, everything that I do is totally calculated upon start and start, stop times for schools so that I'm not there when they get there so that it doesn't clog anything up or make it more difficult for them or me. So I can usually tell you where I'm out within two to three minutes of any school that is on my route.

Superintendent:
That makes sense. So you, you know, your environment, you know, what else is going to be going on? And you adapt.

Matt Gardner:
We add a new school into the school district. I usually go out and I say, okay, it's going to be between this school and that school. And then I'll calculate how long it takes me to get from one destination to the next, and then try it from different areas to see if it's going to be more efficient

Superintendent:
When you're out and about. And you're visiting every school every day. And you're driving throughout the Valley. You must run into some interesting things going on or some surprising things that I don't see as I'm in my office or in schools, Cal tell us about some of the things you run into. Well, we have

Matt Gardner:
A lot of things that happen, probably the strangest thing. Actually, I got quite a kick out of it. I was actually at a stoplight and I looked over and there was a lady parked next to me and I see underneath their shirt, all these things start moving around and all of a sudden out popped out the top of her collar of a shirt, a ferret, a ferry, a ferret, and then another one popped out. And another one, by the time it was all said and done, there was three of them sitting there popped out of the collar, this lady shirts.

Superintendent:
And this is, this is all during the time you're sitting at a stoplight.

Matt Gardner:
Yes, yes. Yeah. So that was probably the strangest thing that made my day. That's been 10 years ago. And it's still a wonderful story.

Superintendent:
Have you ever had the chance to help anybody in distress along the way?

Matt Gardner:
Well, I, well, there's this? Yes. the one time there was a kid that was stuck in the mud on Valentine's day, years back. And I had,

Superintendent:
I think stuck in the mud on Valentine's day is my biography and the Godfrey stuck into my on Valentine's day.

Matt Gardner:
Yeah. The, this little kid was stuck out there. So I pulled over off to the side of the road and just started walking out into the mud and gathered him up and pulled him out. And he had his little sack of Valentines that he was just trying to get to a school. And it was my discrete was the school. And he'd been out there for quite a while and he was upset and crying. So we got into the school and you know, got him safe as far as things go. So

Superintendent:
Then he was stuck in the mud.

Matt Gardner:
Yeah. He was stuck up to his knees in the mud, standing out in the middle of a field cause he had missed a school bus. And so we started

Superintendent:
It's cool because it's Valentine's day and you've got to exchange Valentine.

Matt Gardner:
Yes, exactly. And how,

Superintendent:
Okay, so you rescued him out of the mud. How deep did you get down into the mud?

Matt Gardner:
Tell about to my knees also. So I spent the rest of the day cleaning the vehicle afterwards.

Superintendent:
Wow. This is, this is some Scooby doo level quicksand that you guys climbed into because normally, normally I don't think mud is that powerful, but that's that

Matt Gardner:
They were fairly nasty. So it was really just graded a field. So

Superintendent:
Did, did the Valentines suffer any damage?

Matt Gardner:
I don't think so. They were wrapped up in a Smith sack, so it was good to go. He had, again, the grocery sack wrapped around mud caked on the bottom of them. So hopefully the kids got them at school.

Superintendent:
Wow. Well, that's, that's a different kind of Valentine's day story. What are some of your hobbies when you're not driving for Jordan district? What are some of the things that you like to do? Man?

Matt Gardner:
I like to do photography. I like to cook and I love to do yard work.

Superintendent:
I've heard that. And this is a little bit ironic that as someone who travels for a living, you also love to travel. Is that right? Yes. I do love to travel.

Matt Gardner:
They're going across the country multiple times. And I've visited probably all four corners of the country. I've gone to Scotland. I've been to Rome and I've been to a little town in Belgium called Bruce. I love Bruce, Bruce just phenomenal.

Superintendent:
So you're a photographer as well. That's a good combo, traveling photography. Do you, what, what do you photograph landscapes? How do you w what, what do you like to do?

Matt Gardner:
When I'm traveling, I like to actually do documentary style photography. So some of it is just everyday people doing everyday events, weather over there, just to it's of like, kind of like a street photography. But then I also do the basic pictures of landscapes or the structures of the buildings are architect. Why I'm over there. But I like to try to bring back to me, a picture is better with somebody in it. If it creates what the scene actually is versus trying to make it so pretty that it just looks like, you know, I bought it off of a postcard.

Superintendent:
Why did you take pictures with people in it does not surprise me coming from you because you care so much about people. And that really is your literal focus. Let's play two truths and a lie. You tell me two truths about you. One lie in any order, and I'll try to figure out which is the line. Now we've learned a lot about you, but let's see what else we can learn.

Matt Gardner:
Hmm.

Superintendent:
We're doing this because we're socially distanced. I don't have the benefit of reading body language on the lie. So let's see how I do remotely.

Matt Gardner:
Oh, Holy cow. I'm trying to think of a lie. I'm not good at it.

Superintendent:
Everything about you is true, man.

Matt Gardner:
Well, it's not an outright. Just let's see. I've gone through the police Academy. Okay. I was a dancer in high school and I suck at this.

Superintendent:
No, that's the third truth.

Matt Gardner:
I don't know.

Superintendent:
The third one's the lie.

Matt Gardner:
I dislike my job.

Superintendent:
You know what? I like that. You're not a good liar, man. And I actually remembered one of the times I was talking with you. We talked about your dancing. You were not only a dancer in high school, but a break dancer. If I'm not mistake,

Matt Gardner:
Did a little break dancing, jazz and ballet. Yes. That is impressive.

Superintendent:
That is impressive. Did you lay down the cardboard so you could spin? Well, we, no, I wasn't that level of stuff. That was, that was somebody else that we work with that did that type of stuff, so. Okay. All right. We'll talk more about that, Matt. Like always it is a delight. It's a bright spot in the day to get a chance to talk with you. I appreciate you. Thank you, Dr. Carl Godrey. Thank you. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, the other half of our mail delivery dynamic duo, Jeremy Velarde joins us.

Steven Hall:
I'm Steven Hall, director of Jordan education foundation in today's challenging and uncertain times. It is more important than ever before to support one another here at the Jordan education foundation, we invite you to join us in making sure children are not going hungry. Your $10 donation to the foundation will help us feed one student for a weekend. When food and meals may be very scarce for some, with food and hygiene supplies in the principal's pantries at Jordan school districts being depleted and in higher demand than ever before. Every financial contribution made will help us to keep the pantries filled for students who would otherwise go without the Jordan education foundation exists due to the generosity of people who care about kids. If you would like to donate to help children from going hungry, please visit Jordan education, foundation.org, or contact the foundation at (801) 567-8125. Thank you. Together. We can make a difference.

Superintendent:
We are here with Jeremy Velarde and I have been friends with Jeremy for how long is it now? Since the 19 hundreds? Jeremy?

Jeramie Velarde:
Yeah. 30 something years, right?

Superintendent:
Yeah, that's about right. That's about right. So how long have you worked for Jordan school district?

Jeramie Velarde:
I believe I'm on my 22nd year.

Superintendent:
And how did you start?

Jeramie Velarde:
I started in the warehouse. My, my dad was custodian with you, right. And then West Hills. And he told me to apply and I applied, I got hired on at the warehouse. We moved over to the mail room and that's where I've stayed. Ever since

Superintendent:
Your dad is awesome. We worked together at being a middle school and that the building has now been torn down, but I was there late at night working a lot because I was a first year teacher and that place was pretty scary. I remember talking to him once and I said, how do you possibly work here by yourself? Didn't he work graveyard? He did. Yeah. I asked him, how can you possibly work in this? I loved the building, but after everyone was gone, it was creepy. He worked here all night. He said, I just put my headphones on. So I don't hear all the noises. Don't you started as a driver for the warehouse. And did you and Matt started about the same time?

Jeramie Velarde:
I think he was one or two. I think he was two years. He started it two years before I did.

Superintendent:
Yeah. His name tax driver. What is your name tag say? It says other driver as you travel around schools. Honestly, it is one of the best things I love that I still get to run into you 30 years later. What, what is it like traveling to every school every day?

Jeramie Velarde:
It's great. I love the interactions with the staff and, you know, getting to know people on a, on a long-term basis, you know, and I obviously love it cause I haven't gone anywhere else in a couple decades. You know,

Superintendent:
What differences do you observe as you go from school to school? Does it have its own kind of personality and feel?

Jeramie Velarde:
Oh, definitely. Definitely. Yeah. There's some offices with a little more personality or some offices you could joke around a little bit more. Yeah, there's, there's definitely different fields of different places in schools, but for the most part they're all

Superintendent:
Now, do you have a very specific way that you get to each of the schools? Do you have just a set pattern or do you mix it up? I I'm terrible with directions. I think I would be awful. I, it would take me twice as long as you guys to get this done because I always think there's another way to get there.

Jeramie Velarde:
For the most part, we stick to the same, but it's, it's autopilot, this, this blame we've been doing it for so long, but, but with, you know, different schools popping up and stuff Matt really likes to figure out like the quickest way to do things and the most effective. So, so he's really good at like figuring out the best way to do it. But yeah, we pretty much stick to the same. Right.

Superintendent:
But there are some pretty weird things. People have asked you to deliver domain names.

Jeramie Velarde:
I won't name names, but yes, years ago before the split, there was a, there was this dead fish that was going back and forth in the, in the mail. And some people got, I'll tell you off air.

Superintendent:
Okay. You tell me later who it was, how many people were involved.

Jeramie Velarde:
Oh, there was a, let's see, I think four principals at the time and then just staff. So yeah, I've had people steal my van I've I've had people put honey all over my steering wheel. Do you ever find the culprit? I did Sherry Beckstead. She used to work at Jordan Hills elementary.

Superintendent:
Did she want everything that was supposed to be delivered to her to be lost for the next 10 years?

Jeramie Velarde:
I got her back. I put a frozen burrito in her plan. This was early two thousands. So this was a while back. I think the dead fish is what put a stop to all those pranks, but there for awhile there, it got a little crazy.

Superintendent:
The dead fish become a problem. Was there an official decree about dead fish and other pranks?

Jeramie Velarde:
There was, yes. I think there was a dead fish memo floating her there at some point,

Superintendent:
Jeremy, Jeremy, you have even more stories than I thought. So we are going to lunch. As soon as the Corona virus breaks. I gotta get, I gotta get some more details on this. And now your van was stolen. You said, who stole your van?

Jeramie Velarde:
They've moved. It it's happened a couple times. You know, it's in the parking lot and you know, somebody just gets in there and moves it out of the way. So I come out and my vans

Superintendent:
I've, I've had I've had some interesting things delivered. You've dropped off some prank gifts for me. Nothing like it, dead fish. And then some anonymous things, you know, people have been very crafty about using it, a new envelope and you know, so I've gotten some I've, I've received some nice things over the years, but

Jeramie Velarde:
That's the thing I don't even know I'm delivering pranks most of the time, you know? So it's always a surprise to me to know

Superintendent:
The dead fish was probably pretty obvious. You guys are a big part of what makes Jordan such a great place to work because it just feels good to see you. And it's nice to have the routine and you just connect everybody. And it's obvious that you care about the people that you're, that you're visiting. And I see a lot of times I said this to Matt too. I see a lot of times where people are engaged in a pretty big conversation with you because you're a great listening area, you know, just, they know they're going to see you there. Now they're going to be able to catch up with you.

Jeramie Velarde:
Yeah. Yep. But that's been the nice thing too is, you know, when I, since, since I've worked there, you know, I've had a lot of trials in my life as well. And you know, if I didn't have positive coworkers like that, I don't know what I would've done. And it's been, it's been a blessing for me as well to just have, you know, so, so many positive people in my life and, you know,

Superintendent:
Talk about your hobbies. Okay. You have a ton going on in your life. Tell us tell us about some of the things I know, but the listeners don't know.

Jeramie Velarde:
Well I'm a dad, so that's, that's that keeps me busy. I'm a student I'm working on my bachelor's in education. I'm a painter. Oh, by the way. And I, I play music and I try to stay active with exercise and things like that too. So

Superintendent:
What so you play the guitar,

Jeramie Velarde:
Huh? Guitar, ukulele, and sing.

Superintendent:
And are you a member of a band currently?

Jeramie Velarde:
Not

Superintendent:
Some of the bands. What are some of the bands you've been part of over the years?

Jeramie Velarde:
I was in a punk band called the underachievers. I was in a metal band, a rap metal band called blindfold eight Oh one. And I was in a folk band called has-been and another fault band called Copperton Park.

Superintendent:
I remember Copperton Park and blindfold data one. Yeah. Blindfold data. One was in the era when I, when I first knew you, it wasn't, it wasn't that kind of mid nineties.

Jeramie Velarde:
Yes. Yes.

Superintendent:
And what was the other one? The has-beens

Jeramie Velarde:
[Inaudible] okay.

Superintendent:
You, you kind of, don't have to say that has bins was a folk band. You kind of know if their name that has fans are kind of going to be a folk band, but you, you have very eclectic taste to tell it, tell us about some of the things that you listened to. I love to see your posts. There was one post where you asked me where you kind of posted to a group of people. What are your five year? I think it was your five favorite Beatles songs. And I probably spent like four hours thinking about which songs to post.

Jeramie Velarde:
Oh, I did too. So I've got a new, I w I've got a new one for you, and I'm still thinking about it, but it's to to create your own white album, but only using Beatles solo stuff. So if it's a John song on the white album, you have to pick a John song from the solo album. Does that make sense? Yes. Yes. So I, I'm trying to figure out my perfect solo solo white album. Wow. I'll have to post mine and then tag you in it or something.

Superintendent:
Yeah. Tag me when you post that, that's a delicious quandary. You get to know some of the kids because they're an aide in the office during a certain hour and you tend to be there at the same time.

Jeramie Velarde:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You see a lot of the same, same kids and stuff. And you know, sometimes it's the naughty ones, but you know, I have a soft spot for them.

Superintendent:
Oh, Hey, you're in the office again. All right.

Jeramie Velarde:
Like, Hey, I was that way too. So I don't know anything that really sticks out. I mean, probably the thing most is beaten. My wife, I met Stacy when she was working in HR and we formed a friendship and eventually she asked me on a day and I eventually said yes. And it just worked out from then on. And now we're now we blended the four kids together and it's been, it's been awesome and the best, but flipping canoes over or

Superintendent:
Jeremy, it's been great talking to you. You're awesome. You're a great friend. You're a great person. And I'm so glad to still be in touch and still know you after all these decades. So take care out there and we'll talk to you soon.

Jeramie Velarde:
All right. Thank you so much.

Superintendent:
A big thank you to Matt and Jeremy for being on the show today and for everything they do for Jordan school district, it was great. Having a chance to talk with them, whether you're driving around the district or just listening at home. Remember education is the most important thing you will do today. We'll see. [inaudible].

 

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She is a talented writer and her powerful words are getting national recognition and will be on display in the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. On this episode of the Supercast, we hear from Fort Herriman Middle School 8th grade student Sophia Parsons who is a national finalist in Utah’s 20th annual “Do the Write Thing Challenge,” which is part of the National Campaign to Stop Youth Violence. Find out how one teacher inspired this young teen to put her life lessons into words to inspire change.

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<h2>Audio Transcription</h2>

Superintendent:
Welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. Today, we talked to a very talented young writer whose powerful words are now getting national recognition and will be on display in the Library of Congress in Washington, DC, Fort Herriman Middle School's Sophia Parsons won what is called the Do the Right Thing Challenge, which is part of a national campaign to stop youth violence. On this episode of the Supercast, we'll hear from the teacher who is inspiring young teens, like Sophia, to use their words and life lessons to advocate for change. But first, let's talk with Sophia Parsons.

We're very happy to be here with Sophia Parsons. Sophia is an eighth grade student at Fort Herriman Middle School, and she is receiving national recognition for her writing. And I wanted to find out more about what she wrote and what that recognition is that she's receiving. Sophia, thanks for joining me on the Supercast.

Sophia:
Thank you for having me. It's a very interesting experience.

Superintendent:
Well, it's exciting for me to be able to talk with you. I sure miss being in schools and having the chance to talk with students and teachers and this Zoom meeting is as close as I could possibly get. I'm really excited to talk with you. It was about in eighth grade that I started to get really excited about writing, mostly because of a particular teacher I had. Before we get into the specifics of the award, what is it that you like about writing and what drew you to this contest?

Sophia:
Well, I wouldn't have thought to enter this contest at all if it wasn't for school. My teacher, for our unit about The Outsiders, started having the conversation about youth violence and she suggested the contest to us and had us all write an essay. Whether or not we wanted to submit it was up to us. And so I just wrote it all down one night, because I wasn't that satisfied with what I was, where I was going with it. Got it down, submitted it the next week. And it kind of disappeared until now.

Superintendent:
That sounds very much like what accomplished writers do. They sit down. The idea is there, the fire is burning and at a fever pitch, they just write it and it just comes out. And there it is. That's kind of how it went for you.

Sophia:
Yeah. It's either a lot of hard work to try and formulate abstract thoughts or just one big fever, dream of inspiration.

Superintendent:
So what is the name of the contest and what recognition have you received for your work?

Sophia:
It's called the Do the Right Thing Contest where students send in their essays about youth violence, what they can do to prevent youth violence and how you feel it has affected them. As far as recognition, it's been insane. We've had a couple conference meetings over Zoom, and things like that where I know it's the finalists. And then they announced the national finalists and things like that. And I got a couple goody bags from the committee today. I got a food gift card and that was really, really nice.

Superintendent:
Now, your writing going to be including in a book, is that correct?

Sophia:
Yeah. I heard that it was going to be included in a book in Congress. So it's kind of mind blowing.

Superintendent:
Yeah, in the library of Congress, which is quite a nice honor. Tell us about what you wrote as your submission.

Sophia:
Oh boy. My teacher went over the criteria first and I was kind of confused as to what I would write because in my mind I'm not a target of youth violence. I feel like up to now, I'm not the right person to be talking about this. I don't feel very directly affected, but I figured, Hey, everyone has a story to share, so I might as well share mine. And so I started off with why youth violence happens and the feelings associated with that, because I feel like it tends to be boiled down to condition or circumstance. And I wanted to get into the emotions behind it. That's why I found the outsiders so compelling. It's the emotions of the characters from their situation. And so I tried relating that to myself and I found the biggest connection there with feeling undeserving of everything, not feeling like you belong or like you have a place in the world.

Sophia:
So that was the easiest part. By far the hardest part was the criteria of relating it back to myself because I'm just a privileged white girl from the middle of Utah. But in order to find that, I took  a look at my past. I've always related more with the idea that you can bully yourself and not really be aware of it. And I tried looking at my past and asked, where could I have gone down this dark path? And so I looked a lot at my younger life when I was just like a kid and my mom was an alcoholic and a smoker. I thought that was what was normal. And my dad never worked a nine to five job. And so he was only kinda around during the nighttime, since he left early in the morning. So it's not as big a thing, but it's still impacted me in ways that I didn't really understand at the time. But looking back, it's a lot easier.

Superintendent:
Is it fair to say that the writing made you reflect on who you are and what your experiences have been and how they've influenced you?

Sophia:
Oh, definitely. Like I always tend to play down my problems and like play down my issues like, Oh, well, I don't have it as bad as somebody else. But taking the time to look in at myself, even if it is for an essay purpose, it was very therapeutic. If nothing else, at the end of writing the essay, I felt a lot better about myself and like my problems matter.

Superintendent:
Well, that's a really good result from writing this. I was interested in what you said about bullying yourself. That when you started to reflect on this, you realize that's something that can happen. Tell me a little bit more about what you mean by that.

Sophia:
Well, when I was first introduced to the concept of killing yourself, I was in third, fourth grade around there. I was kind of known as the kid who was down about themselves. I didn't have a ton of friends and I didn't want a ton of friends in my head. I kept telling myself that I was a bad person or something like that. I wasn't deserving of all that I had. And then we had a guest speaker somewhere who introduced the concept to me. And that whole time, it was just staring at my hands, Oh God, that's me. I'm the one who says mean things to myself. And I've still struggled with it up to now, but I've gotten a lot better at stepping outside of myself and saying, Hey, that is not something you'd want to do to anybody else. So why would you do to it to you?

Superintendent:
Okay. You described that reading The Outsiders and relating to The Outsiders made you start to reflect on your own situation. And then you had to use some creativity and some imagination to turn that into a writing project. Can you tell us about the result of that process? What did your writing end up looking like? Was it an essay? Was it the poem? How did that end up?

Sophia:
Well at first I was going to write an essay. I had like a couple paragraphs outlined. And I just didn't like how they sounded. I felt like they were too stiff and really impersonal. And so I was going through it a couple days before the deadline and thought, I don't really like this. And so I worked until around one o'clock in the morning, somewhere around that. And I got inspiration and I ended up writing kind of a poem. I call it a PSA because it's like a couple poem-ish stanzas in an essay format.

Superintendent:
So you created your own genre. You really accomplished even more than I realized.

Sophia:
I don't know if I'd say a whole genre, but a weird amalgamation of Dr. Seuss language and person.

Superintendent:
Okay. After writing this, were you surprised to win this recognition?

Sophia:
Oh, definitely. When I sent it off, it still was just thinking, oh man, that was just a brain piece from when I was super tired at one o'clock in the morning. I sent it off to a couple of my friends to peer review via email. But they just said it was good. I said, Oh, thanks. I've known for awhile that I'm a pretty okay writer. It's how I cope. I'm not a very good communicator in real life. It's been an issue. So I kind of event that into writing. And so I thought, Oh yeah, I'd place around like maybe mid-level ones. I learned that I was a finalist, but I didn't think that I was gonna be a national finalist at all. It's still kind of surreal.

Superintendent:
So how does that feel to be a national finalist?

Sophia:
It is the greatest accomplishment I have ever made in my entire life up to this point. I feel very seen now. I don't know if you've heard of Dear Evan Hansen. I saw the play before it shut down due to coronavirus, but it kind of feels like that in both the good way and the bad way where it's amazing that I have this opportunity to share something so great with other people, but it also is a lot for little Sophia who doesn't talk very well.

Superintendent:
Well, we all have to find our path to connect to the world around us. And it sounds like you have found yours. I'm also impressed that I hear a lot of things you're doing that great writers do. They write when they feel like writing. If it's in the morning, if it's in the evening, they find that time when they can write. They use friends to bounce things off. They're inspired by literature that they read and they connect to real feelings and to who they are. And I think you're doing those things very well. And I'm very impressed at the way you're able to talk about yourself and your own writing.

Sophia:
Thank you very much. Writing is like an extension of the self, so I don't see any reason as to why I should hide anything when it comes to a topic like this.

Superintendent:
I think that's a great way to approach it. Tell me about your your teacher. What is your teacher's name and how did she get you involved in that?

Sophia:
My teacher's name is Megan. And she is the best. I love her so much. She has been a joy to have even for online school. She's been supportive throughout this entire thing. I couldn't have asked for a better English teacher. She isn't afraid to share how she feels and lifts up the people around her with what she does in the classroom. I think she's really cool.

Superintendent:
I was an eighth grade English teacher, so I'm a little bit envious that she gets to still do that. I taught The Outsiders and actually, my last year as an assistant principal at Jordan High School, they let me go up and give an impromptu speech because I was leaving. So I got to speak as well. And I yelled out a line from The Outsiders, "Stay gold pony boy". I've never forgotten that book. I've always loved it. Did you like The Outsiders? Is that partially what got you into writing the essay?

Sophia:
Yeah, I liked it a lot. There were a couple of people in my class who were said it's not as cool as other books they've read, but I don't read a ton outside of school. So it was a cool thing.

Superintendent:
We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, a surprise visit from Sophia's teacher who is making a difference in so many young lives, Megan Dumber joins us.

Break:
I'm Stephen Hall, Director of Jordan Education Foundation. In today's challenging and uncertain times, it is more important than ever before to support one another. Here at the Jordan Education Foundation, we invite you, join us in making sure children are not going hungry. Your $10 donation to the Foundation will help us feed one student for a weekend. When food and meals may be very scarce for some, with food and hygiene supplies in the principal's pantries at Jordan School District being depleted and in higher demand than ever before. Every financial contribution made will help us to keep the pantries filled for students who would otherwise go without. The Jordan Education Foundation exists due to the generosity of people who care about kids. If you would like to donate to help children from going hungry, please visit jordaneducationfoundation.org, or contact the Foundation at (801) 567-8125. Thank you. Together, we can make a difference.

Superintendent:
Sophia was also recognized recently by the Utah State Board of Education for her writing. Her mom was by her side and became emotional as her daughter was recognized. Let's listen in.

"Can I, just as a parent, chime in on the last comment about the teacher. Her teacher has been, sorry, I get a little emotional. It's nice to see teachers who really take time to care about students and see them on a level that not everyone gets to. So it's been a really emotional trip for us to have that great teachers."

Superintendent:
Thank you Megan Dumber, for joining us on the Supercast. Now Megan is Sophia's teacher who helped to get her involved in the contest. Megan, thanks for joining us. Tell us you're an eighth grade English teacher at Fort Herriman Middle School. Is that correct?

Megan:
Yeah, I actually am teaching eighth and ninth grades this year. So I've spent half my day with the eighth graders and half my day with the ninth graders.

Superintendent:
And you don't have to tell us your favorites. I was also an eighth grade English teacher and eighth grade was my absolutely favorite class to teach back in the 1900s. I made friends with some of those eighth grade students and I'm still in contact with them. Even this week I had conversations with a couple of my students back from eighth grade in 1993. So it's quite a ways back and it brings back nice memories to be talking to the two of you, have my chance to in an eighth grade English classroom. And as a student in eighth grade, my eighth grade English teacher was my favorite teacher and remains my favorite teacher of all time.

Megan:
My eighth grade Language Arts teacher is the reason why I'm a teacher. And I'm still in contact with her regularly also.

Superintendent:
That's fantastic.

Megan:
It just makes me so happy.

Superintendent:
Where were you in eighth grade?

Megan:
Where was I? Oh, I was in a suburb of Chicago at Brown Point Middle School.

Superintendent:
Oh yeah. And what's the name of the teacher you stayed in contact with?

Megan:
Oh, that's Miss Jennifer Rossi, Jen Rossi, my Facebook friend. And I will always talk about her anytime I get the opportunity because some middle school teachers have this idea that we're the forgotten ones. Everybody remembers their high school teachers after they've graduated and you know, they feel like they can stay in contact with them, but I just, I refuse to believe that. So I will continue to hang out and talk to my eighth grade Language Arts teacher, even if she's 1300 miles away. And I hope that my students someday will feel the same way. But even if they don't, I'm going to still believe that I'm not forgotten.

Superintendent:
Well, I don't believe you're forgotten at all. And you've obviously had a big positive influence on Sophia and helped move her to enter this contest. Tell us a little bit about Sophia and her writing.

Megan:
Oh gosh. Well, she's amazing. I noticed it right at the beginning of the year and her ability to connect with her emotions and be vulnerable is always something that stands out to me, especially in eighth graders because so many eighth graders are so concerned about fitting in and just not being noticed, just going with the flow, that kind of thing. So any time a student is brave enough to be vulnerable and real and honest with their emotions and connect with themselves on that level and then should be able to go that next step and convey that to other people that takes extreme vulnerability and bravery. I noticed that Sophia was able to do that right off the bat. I have all my students write me a letter at the beginning of the year and they can write about whatever they want. It's just a letter for me to help get to know them. They can be as superficial with them as they want or as deep as they want. And she was just really honest and straightforward, right from the very beginning. I've taught all the way through high school seniors and she writes better than many high schoolers I've taught. So she's very gifted.

Superintendent:
That does not surprise me just talking with her. I can tell how articulate she is and how good she is expressing herself.

Megan:
Absolutely. I almost forgot about that.

Superintendent:
Sorry. It's unpleasant when people talk about you like this, isn't it?

Sophia:
No, no, it's that's right. It's just a little embarrassing, but mom's been doing it a lot this week.

Megan:
Just love to brag about you Sophia.

Superintendent:
Well, you obviously have a big fan in Ms. Dumber. Tell us about how you teach kids to connect to writing and to their emotions and to express themselves.

Megan:
Well, it's hard. It is definitely a challenge, but I think what helps with the Do the Right Thing competition is the way that we lay everything out for students from the beginning. It's a topic that in some communities is much easier to talk about because it's all around them in a very visual way. But in other communities it is more of a hidden issue or something that people don't bring to the forefront initially. And so what I like to start doing with my students every year when the competition rolls around is first, talk about what violence is and have people give examples. I like to do a little creative writing with them right off the bat where we talk about getting a little abstract with it? Like, what does violence taste like? What does it sound like? And having them connect to it on like that really visceral level, I feel like when they're able to do that, then we move into the next step where they start to begin sharing personal experiences, whether it's directly or indirectly or as a witness then they start to be able to put those pieces together and open up a lot more. Most kids, not all, but a lot more than you would expect.

Superintendent:
That makes a lot of sense in the way that you structure things. You can help students discover that they're able to do things that maybe they didn't think they were capable of.

Megan:
Yeah. I also like to just talk about it at the beginning of the year,  why we write, why writers do what they do and not just authors, but anybody who writes. And so one of the things I like to focus on is that it's one way of connecting with others. It's one way of developing empathy. It's one way of making sense of the world around us and processing what we're seeing and experiencing. So I feel that when they understand why we're doing it, they're not so stressed about it. I don't know what I'm going to write because they know the why. And when you know the why, the what becomes a lot easier.

Superintendent:
Sophia, tell us about that. Does that ring true for you?

Sophia:
So much? Sometimes when I'm just walking home from school, I'll go into weird narrator mode and I'll just be like, this guy was his cleaner in his blue his day. And then I think, man, I'm going to go home and write now, It's just everywhere, dude. It plagues my mind.

Superintendent:
Once your teacher gets in your mind with some great ideas, it's hard to get them out. Luckily well,  that's really exciting. And I love Ms. Dumber's description of your letter at the beginning of the year, Sophia, because she's right. I remember, as an eighth grade Language Arts teacher, that I had certain tricks. I used not tricks, but methods and activities to help connect people to their emotions and to help them realize that writing isn't about right or wrong or about grammar as much as it is about expression and connection. And it sounds like that just came naturally for you.

Sophia:
It's an acquired skill, like any other art, in my opinion. My mom has gone on record and we'll say for the end of time that she is a bad writer, and every time she says it, it bugs me to no end because that means that I'm automatically at a higher plane, but it just comes naturally to me. But it's just getting in touch with yourself and then just putting it out there. It doesn't matter if anybody actually reads it at the end of the day. It's you saying how you feel.

Superintendent:
Well said. Ms. Dumber, what do you like most about teaching?

Megan:
Oh my gosh. Well, you're going to make me cry. I love my students. I that's why I do it. I love everything that I miss right now about teaching is like why I love teaching. It's getting to see my students every day and have genuine interactions with them that are candid and unforced. I feel like I have to force so much of my personality when I'm filming to just a camera every day, instead of just being my awkward self in front of them. And I like helping them to know more about who they are.

Superintendent:
Well, it sounds like you're doing a fantastic job of that. And I think it's a very valuable tool, especially as an eighth or ninth grader, to be able to use writing, to be able to connect to your own emotions and to help you reflect on who you are and who you want to be. So Bravo, thank you. Sophia described really well. Even you have some natural talent, it takes work, and it's a skill that you cultivate when, when you want to write. So even if you have a head start and maybe have a natural ability or interest in writing, there are things to do to hone skills, but what can anyone do? Do you have suggestions for parents? If, if their child wants, wants to be a better writer, any ideas or thoughts about how they can do that?

Speaker 5:
One thing I would say is to write something every day. That's something that a lot of writers that I look up to, or that I've studied in my teaching of creative writing and things like that have recommended is just write, just put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard or glass, whatever, and create something every day. It doesn't have to be a novel a day obviously, but you need to be able to build stamina. And that's one of the best ways to do it is to be consistent with your practice, just like, you know, shooting hoops and basketball. If you want to get a better free for, Oh, you have to put in some repetition. So writers need to do the same thing and exercise in that way. And the other thing I would say is to not write with the expectation of someone else, seeing it, you know, I love what Sophia shared about just like being, walking down the sidewalk and having an idea that pops into your head and then wanting to go home and write about it.

Speaker 5:
That's amazing. And if more people did that, then they would be able to have that. Like, you know, when you're just writing in your diary or in a note on your phone, like I do, you have so much freedom, you can write whatever you want and, and no one's going to judge you for it. And so much of what I see when it comes to students who perceive themselves as bad writers or people who just can't write it's, they're paralyzed by the fear of criticism and like the, the negative feedback that they're going to receive. And so they become paralyzed and unable to take that step of actually getting their thoughts out onto the paper or screen. But when you write just for yourself, you don't have to worry about any of that. So I would encourage that type of writing as much as possible.

Superintendent:
I love that. Great advice. Sophia, what advice do you have for aspiring writers or even people who are reluctant and just need to get started?

Sophia:
Well, I'd say try out different like avenues, cause like I don't enjoy informative writing as much, like doing research, like kills my brain cells. I can't do it for more than like an hour, but like writing poems or I wrote a lot of haiku's over seventh grade, summer break and just getting the feelings out there instead of like writing like super precise, analytical essays. So write about what you're passionate about, try out different ways of writing. That would be my advice.

Superintendent:
Great thoughts being through the times we're living through is writing a good source of stress relief and therapy. And do you think there are some people who didn't think they were writers might emerge as writers if they just give it a try in these unusual circumstances?

Speaker 5:
I definitely think it's possible and I've, I've seen it myself over the past few weeks with the assignments that my students have been doing virtually. With April being national poetry month, my students were writing some original poetry as well as analyzing poetry by other poets. And in the process of doing that, I've seen so many writers like pop out of the woodwork and I'm writing them back and comments like, where have you been all year? Oh my gosh, this is amazing. Like it just came it's it's, it's blowing me away. And I think that a lot of that has to do with, they had to sit and think, and they had the time to sit and think because it's hard in a classroom with, you're trying to keep to a schedule and you're trying to keep on pace with your PLC and you don't wanna, you know, lag too far behind in, in planning.

Speaker 5:
And so you feel like you have to put a time limit on how much brainstorming they can do and things like that, which is it pains me, but sometimes it needs to be done. And when they have all this time just to ruminate on their ideas and really think about it, I think you get some amazing, amazing stuff. And I'm trying to figure out now how to put together like an anonymous collection of poetry that my students have turned in about COVID and quarantine, because people write about, like Sophia said, what is happening, what, you know, what they're passionate about, what, what they're feeling. And for so many of our kids right now, it is frustration and disappointment with what's happening and they just want an outlet to be able to talk about that. So I feel really good about what we've been doing at Fort Herriman and in allowing them to express those feelings.

Superintendent:
Sounds fantastic. And I love the discovery of new literary voices. That's wonderful. Sophia, any thoughts on that?

Sophia:
Yeah, it's definitely going to help people. Like, at least that's what I believe is like, it provides that social aspect to like, it feels like you're adding to a pen pal, you know, like even if there isn't like a direct connection, it's still get your feelings out there and you can send it to somebody online. That's what I've been doing a lot with my friend Quinn and we just text each other back and forth and we have like these big, long essays about video games or whatever that we share with each other and been,

Speaker 1:
It's been really fun.

Superintendent:
That's wonderful. Sounds great. I it's interesting. I've I follow a number of authors on Twitter and they've been talking with their fans about which books of theirs they think relate or books that they want to ride or wish they'd written that, that relate to this circumstance. And it really is unique when you're living through it. So Sophia, I'm glad that you're writing. I'm glad you're keeping a journal because I think it will be difficult to recreate after the fact, but being right in it. I think you have a, a prime opportunity and I look forward to reading your future works because I have no doubt I'm going to have the opportunity to do that. So it's been a pleasure talking with both of you and Ms. Domer, keep up the great work with your students. I love your passion and I love your story, that it was an eighth grade teacher that got you to teaching eighth grade. That's my story too. And I always will think fondly of Mr. Evans and Sophia my congratulations on already being so articulate and so connected to yourself. And I wish you only the best for the future. And I look forward to meeting both of you in person

Speaker 1:
One day down the road. Thank you so much. Thank you for joining us on the super couch. Remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today.

 

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On this episode of the Supercast we honor the Graduating Class of 2020 by sharing their words of wisdom as they look back on a year like no other and look forward with fierce optimism. We could not be more proud of these resilient, strong and successful young men and women. Listen and be inspired by our 2020 graduates.

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<h2>Audio Transcription</h2>

Superintendent:
Hello, and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. On this episode of the Supercast, we honor the graduating class of 2020. We're doing it by sharing powerful words of wisdom. As our graduates look back on a year like no other and looked forward with fierce optimism. We could not be more proud of these resilient, strong and successful young men and women. Listen and be inspired by students delivering their high school graduation speeches. We start with a few words from Bingham High Senior Class President, Carter. Congratulations.

Carter:
Our senior year hasn't turned out how we thought it would, but it definitely will go down in the books as memorable. We have had a one of a kind senior year. If we look on the bright side, we didn't have to wake up for school five days a week. And we were able to spend as much time with our families before heading off and starting our futures. I'm so glad that we got to spend a memorable senior year together and at the greatest school throughout our three years at being here. We have stuck together. As we have dealt with this pandemic. I've seen many ways that we have stood together and helped each other through these hard times. Even though it has been rough, there've been many good moments too. I have watched as our fellow seniors have stepped up and recognized each other on social media. Others have lifted each other spirits with posts about the good times and good memories. When I've considered what we have been through this year, this quote comes to mind. "Dear high school seniors of 2020. You were born when the world was grieving over 911 and you are graduating as the world grieves a pandemic. Although your two biggest launches into freedom, birth and graduation, have taken place in the midst of a tragedy, just know that the world is an amazing, loving, beautiful place. And it is waiting for you with open arms. We grieve with you that your senior year is ending in this way, but we can't wait to see how you overcome. You were made for this." This quote embodies the class of 2020. We were made to do hard things.

Superintendent:
Now we will hear from Copper Hills High. Introduce yourself, please.

Connor:
My name is Connor Haslem, and I'm currently the Senior Class President for the Class of 2020.

Superintendent:
What is the graduation theme for the Class of 2020 at Copper Hills High School?

Connor:
"Seize Your Moment" from Disney's Coco. I just wanted to explore that for a second. From here on out, life will be handing us opportunities and success. And other times we will be facing hardships and failure. Our lives are in our own hands and we will have the chance to become anybody be want to be. If we work hard enough to get there. One of my favorite quotes in the whole world is "Life is too short to wake up in the morning with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forgive the ones who don't and believe that everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it. Nobody said it'd be easy. They just promised you it would be worth it." There is not a single person in this graduating class that is not destined for greatness. We are hardworking. We are motivated. We are dedicated. Most importantly, we are the future.

Superintendent:
And now Grace, Copper Hills High Valedictorian.

Grace:
Our transition out of high school happened faster for us than it has for any other class. Change is always easier when it's gradual, but this abrupt end made us realize how important this all was while we were in school. Many of us didn't appreciate the time we had. We didn't think about the amazing experiences that wouldn't last forever. We were on rafts, just trying to stay afloat. I would go to class and count down the days until the weekend. I'd constantly reassure my friends that we'd be graduating soon. Now that it's over, I find myself constantly thinking about all the people I met here, all the friends and teachers who undoubtedly changed my life. I'd like to say, thank you to my friends, family, and teachers for your support and all that you've taught me. I am the person I am today because of you.

Superintendent:
Alexander Burgess, Herriman High School.

Alexander:
The last three months have forced us all to learn and teach in new ways. As third quarter midterms hit, we thought we had the end of senior year figured out. We knew how to pass all of our classes with the minimum amount of work necessary. And we were looking forward to a little bit of inaction after four long years of action. Then plans changed and we had to figure out how to graduate without actually being in school. It may have taken us 12 years of learning to get here, but we did it as we go forward. I want to join with my fellow Mustangs as we give a hundred percent to every action we undertake. I wish you all the best. I am excited to see where we will all end up because I know that it will be greater than where we are now.

Our futures have unlimited potential for greatness. We are all going to be able to be the helpers, the activists, the people who are passionate about something in their lives. We are all going to be able to achieve an incredible amount in our lives because we will know that it is only when we take action for what is right. That we are able to change the world for the people around us, live so that even as you face the risks of taking action, you know that the world and future that you are making is one that you are proud of. You are all destined to live a life worth remembering.

Superintendent:
And now part of McKay Nixon's speech from Mountain Ridge High School.

McKay:
So 2020, this is the day we've been waiting for for the past 13 years. And while it's not at all that we expected it to be, we still have a reason to celebrate. I mean, we have officially completed 13 years of schooling. Even more, we survived two and a half months of online schooling which at least for me has been the hardest part of the year. When I realized we would not be able to complete our high school experience in person, I started to think about the events that have led us to where we are today. We, the Class of 2020, were born at a time of national, if not international distress as a world tried to come to terms with what happened on 911. Then a year later in 2002, Salt Lake held the Olympic games and people from all over the world came together once again from this. we also got our beloved Olympic oval where several of us have gone and made memories during a dance day or a fun night with friends and family. In 2005, YouTube was founded and not only has this been a wonderful source of procrastination for us, it's led the world to realize that you can get paid for doing just about anything. In 2008, Barack Obama made history, as less than a century before it would have been fathomable to think a person of color would or even could become the President of the United States. This has taught us to dream big and not listen to anything society tells us. Fast forward to 2012 and the world didn't end, even though the Mayan calendar said it would. From this we learn to live every day as if it were a last. In 2013, the Boston Marathon was bombed. Again, another event that sent America into distress. Then when we were in ninth grade, the political world was a mess. It was 2016 in Clinton and Trump ran for President. Pretty certain all anyone talked about this year was the wall. 2017 brought us worry as this year was deemed a year of disaster, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires seem to be occurring all over the world at an exponential rate, creating a demand for humanitarian aid. Now we graduate over video as a world is again in distress. It's only June in 2020 has already left its mark from the Australia wildfires. Trump's impeachment trial, the death of NBA star, Kobe Bryant, the Olympics being postponed to next summer and American schools moving to online learning. It's safe to say that this year is not at all what we expected. It may even seem unfair. And some of you may even have feelings of anxiety and distress as you wonder what the future holds.

It's true that we don't always have control over the events that happen in our lives, or even the ability to change the past. But every day we have the chance to change what the overall picture of our future looks like. As we move on from high school, whether that be to college, trade school, serving a mission or wherever life takes you, you will have to make the choice every day to either work towards your goals or be stagnant and stay where you are. And it's not going to be easy. But if high school has taught me anything, it's that the best things in life only come after hard work and dedication. That in a few crying sessions, when you just don't understand life, never hurt. To Mountain Ridges first ever graduating class, I wish you the very, very, very best of luck and wherever life takes you, I hope you remember to leave a legacy wherever you go. Like we did this!

Superintendent:
Riverton High School

Jacob:
My name is Jacob Smith, and it has been my honor to serve as Riverton High School, Senior Class President this year. On behalf of the Class of 2020 and the senior class officers, I would like to express our sincere gratitude for the administration, faculty and staff of Riverton High School for all that they have done for us throughout the last three years. They have spent countless hours teaching us, pushing us to succeed and helping us to have a positive, fun, high school experience. Their hard work has truly helped us to grow, both as students and as people. I was hoping to spend the last few months of my senior year doing what I live for, making memories with my friends. Sadly in early March of this year, the efforts to contain a global pandemic required schools to close for the remainder of the school year. Like all of us, I was devastated by this news and I didn't want to believe it.

Many of the aspects of senior year that I was the most excited about, things like prom, watching spring sports and Senior Dinner Dance were gone in the blink of an eye. These were the very moments that I believed I would live for as my senior year drew to a close. Suddenly all the excitement I felt for the future was replaced by fear. All of us have felt afraid or frustration as many of the moments we've dreamed about have been cancelled or postponed. Many of us have experienced even deeper fears as we worry about our parents' jobs and the health of our loved ones. We didn't want to worry about all this. All we wanted to do was look forward to our future and celebrate everything our Riverton family had accomplished during high school. For most of us, the hardest aspect of these circumstances is the feeling that the world is cold and doesn't care about us.

It can feel like when we were just figuring out what we wanted to do with our lives, the world put our plans on ice. We fear a world that is cold and unfeeling because that is not the world we knew at Riverton High School. At Riverton High School, we knew a world where people offered a seat at their lunch table to strangers who looked lonely at Riverton High School. We knew a world where people helped each other with classes. They struggled in at Riverton High School. We knew a world where the entire Riverton family supported each other during games, performances, and concerts. Above all. at Riverton High School, we knew a world where people were devoted to service. As the world struggles with economic and public health crisis, it is up to our generation to solve them. It could be our generation that cures this virus. It could be our generation that injects new life into a struggling economy. It could be our generation that reminds the world about the importance of hope and optimism during uncertain times.

Superintendent:
Haley McCarthy, West Jordan High School.

Haley:
Our senior year feels incomplete and it's not fair. But life is not fair. And who knows that better than us being the first seniors ever to lose the Spirit Bowl? I would end this by saying it's a great day to be a Jaguar. But after this, many of us will become Thunderbirds, Cougars, Trailblazers, and many more. However, once a Jaguar, always a Jaguar Jag. I can't thank you enough for these past three years and for making many memories of me that I will cherish forever. I love you. I'm beyond grateful for you. And I wish you all the best of luck as we go create more firsts in the next stages of our lives.

Superintendent:
Lacy Works, West Jordan High School.

Lacy:
Yes, our year ended early, but as we are sad, we are the hope and the light and the leaders of the future. Not only do we provide hope for the future, but we provide hope for the whole world. Wayne Gretzky said,"You miss a hundred percent of the shots you don't take." I know for me that over these three years, I wish I'd taken more shots where we have our whole lives ahead of us. Chris Diehard wrote a letter to high school seniors, and in this letter he says, "Let's be abundantly clear. You were robbed and it's unfair. If you're upset, then you shouldn't embrace those feelings. Some folks will downplay the situation because they won't know what it's like to have their senior year stripped. At the last moment, I for one will not downplay. It has happened to me." He was robbed due to Hurricane Katrina and we were robbed because of a world pandemic. This won't stop the Class of 2020. We are strong, but stronger together. We are full of light shining brighter together. We will get through this and we'll show the world who we are.

Superintendent:
Next, Katrina Wick, West Jordan High.

Katrina:
Well, I know it's not exactly what we thought the state would look like. I don't think any of us in our craziest dreams have imagined that we would be isolated from one another. And one of the most important days of our young lives. I know it's not what we expected. It would be easy to take the path of disappointment, sadness and maybe even anger. I know I have felt these emotions. I have all thought of the heartache of missing special moments that we could have had, should have had. But we have made the choice to be the light in a time of darkness. We've been loved and supported by our family, friends, administration, and even strangers. We've been checking in on each other, lifting each other up and simply being there for one another. When we come together as a community, we are resilient, strong and brave. We will take disappointment and gain the strength to overcome obstacles in our path. We will take sadness and channel its energy into courage, and we will take anger and turn it into love for one another. We can and will do this and so much more. We will look back on this difficult time and know it helped make us the outstanding individuals that we are.

Anthony Godfrey:
Now, Scarlet Hope McCullough, Valley High

Scarlet:
Congratulations Class of 2020. I would like to start off by thanking our administrators and teachers. Without any of you. None of us would be standing here. Now to my family, I would like to thank you for standing by my side when I didn't think I could make it and encouraging me when needed. To my peers, I thank you for being so loving and accepting towards one another, no matter our differences. This is the first step in the journey of our lives. One we've worked hard for, and the hard work did not come easy. But graduation is not the end of our journey. Instead, it's the beginning of our future. The things we have learned here will help pave the way for our future achievements. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step. We've all taken the first step towards triumphant success.

Superintendent:
Emily Rhodes, Valley High School

Emily:
Our path in life isn't always a straight one. We might stumble from time to time or even veer off course a little bit. But the important thing is that we pick ourselves back up and get back on our journey. I feel as though this is what all of us students did. We chose to keep fighting by going to this amazing school. Valley High School's graduating Class of 2020 should be known for their resilience, because despite the school having to close down and us students having to continue our education at home, we still fought for ourselves and the privilege to be here today. We should definitely be proud of ourselves for making it this far. But we couldn't have done it without our amazing support systems. I would like to say thank you to all the family members, friends, and everyone else who served as a support system for us. We have the family that we were  fortunate enough to be born into and the family that we find later on in life. And like me, you might be lucky enough to have both. I know that I definitely wouldn't have been able to do this without the support of my immediate family throughout the years. I also couldn't have made it without the family that I chose. Sam, Stacy and Brooklyn. So thank you to both of my families, for all the love, support, wisdom, and advice you have given me. Without all of you, I feel like I'd be in a completely different situation. I would also like to thank all of the faculty and staff here at Valley, for everything you have done to guide us here. You have all made an impact in our lives, one way or another. And it is because of you that Valley feels more like a second home to us rather than just another high school.

Anthony Godfrey:
And here's Kimmy Hanson speaking at the graduation ceremony for South Valley, a school that focuses on early work and independent living skills for middle and high school students with special needs.

Kimmy:
Hi, I'm Kimmy. I like going to South Valley School. We learned a lot on our journey to graduation. We have benefited from the tremendous positive influence of faculty, family, and friends who are cheering you on today. Don't forget to thank them for the help they've given you along the way through your high school years. Particularly this last semester, you have overcome many obstacles, enjoyed wonderful triumphs, and been surprised by the abilities you have found within yourself. May you carry forward what you have learned and continue to achieve great things in your life.

Superintendent:
Thank you for joining us for a special edition of the Supercast, honoring the graduates  of 2020. Remember, education is the most important thing you will do today.

And now we leave you with Mandy Pond from Valley high School playing her rendition of "You've Got a Friend in Me".

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It is always one of the most exciting weeks for third-grade teachers, students and their families at Blackridge Elementary School. “Fantasy Week” transforms classrooms into the land of Hogwarts with a curriculum based on the popular Harry Potter story and characters.

In this episode of the Supercast, hear how teachers managed to recreate “Fantasy Week,” using their magic and creativity to make the lessons come alive virtually.


Audio Transcription

Superintendent:
Hello and welcome to the Supercast. I'm your host, Superintendent Anthony Godfrey. Today we take you into the world of Harry Potter with potions, wands, dragons, and wizardry. It's all a part of one of the most exciting weeks for third grade students at Black Ridge Elementary School. But this year, due to school dismissal, teachers had to work their magic to make what is called "Fantasy Week" happen in homes with virtual lessons that had students thoroughly engaged and excited about learning. Let's start with third grade teacher, Becky Mariani, who explains what "Fantasy Week" is all about and why Black Ridge wouldn't be the same without it

Superintendent:
Interviewing over zoom, of course, making sure that we are socially distanced and in the background, it really looks like you are a part of the House of Ravenclaw. Tell me how this all works.

Becky:
I actually am a Ravenclaw to the very core of my being, but this is a little bit different every year. In third grade, we studied the different genres of reading and writing. This particular year was a little bit challenging because when we got to fantasy, we have what's called Fantasy Week and we create a school of witchcraft wizardry, and the kids go to magic school for an entire week and they do all their reading and writing and even their math and all of their science is done in the realm of fantasy. So they're divided up into houses, just like they would be at Hogwarts. And then they go to the Black Ridge School for that week.

Superintendent:
So does the hat sort everyone into their house?

Becky:
It does. That's the very first thing that happens when the kids come to school. They go through a sorting ceremony. We put the hat on their head and they get sorted.

Superintendent:
Wow. And is it competitive throughout the week?

Becky:
Yes, we're all vying for house points and this is one of my favorite things about it, because as they're sorted into the four different houses, I will have all four houses in my class and all the other classes will have members of the four houses. So instead of classes competing for points against each other, that's houses competing for points. So if I have four to six Ravenclaw in my room, they may be doing really well, but Ravenclaw in another classroom might be struggling. So they'll balance each other out at the end when we add all the classes and all the points.

Superintendent:
Wow. So there's an element of unity and competition all at the same time.

Becky:
Absolutely.

Superintendent:
That's exciting. I know that competition can be very motivating for students. Do you see a higher level of engagement during Fantasy Week?

Becky:
I would say it about quadruples. They will do just about anything to get those points. And this year was kind of fun. We've been able to do some things online that we couldn't do in the classroom. So they've had a little Claws class point tracker and it's tracked the points every day and they've been able to keep track of the totals and you should see the chats going on. As soon as that, you can tell when the house points have been updated, because the chats just start firing and you see them talking about, we're not here, we're here. So even from home, they're following this.

Superintendent:
So which house seems to be ahead right now?

Becky:
Well, today is the house cup today. Dumbledore is going to present the house cups. So I actually already know who won. Oh, but I can't tell you, not yet because the kids don't know, but when we left off yesterday, RavenClaw won a slight edge over the other houses.

Superintendent:
Wow. And I saw that Dumbledore is in fact quite tall. Who is your Dumbledore?

Becky:
Oh, I have got to tell you about this. There's a family in the neighborhood. Suzanne and Don Johnson. And they help people with decorations and she makes these costumes. So Don is our Dumbledore. He dresses up and he comes in. He actually would present the house this year. He recorded it for us, and then Suzanne is our professor. She teaches class.

Superintendent:
Wow. Well, in the photos, he's very convincing and it's obvious the faculty has leaned into this all the way. Your outfit, the backdrop, I believe you even have a cage in the background with owls in there. Yes. Look at that. The props are really something else. How long have you been doing Fantasy Week?

Becky:
I've been doing it probably going on about eight years now.

Superintendent:
So over the years, do you accumulate more and more accoutrements to recreate the House of Ravenclaw?

Becky:
Well, my oldest daughter moved out and so her entire bedroom is full of these things and she's not allowed to move back because I don't have a place to put them. So the answer to that would be, yes.

Superintendent:
Do people bring you things or give you things because they know that you're Ravenclaw and they find Ravenclaw things to give you.

Becky:
They do. They do. But typically I wouldn't have been just Ravenclaw. If we were here in the classroom, I would have represented all houses, but because it was different this year, we decided ahead on house. So I've got everything else.

Superintendent:
So you're the head of the house. But normally you would represent all the houses throughout the week.

Becky:
Because I wouldn't want one house feeling like they were favored.

Superintendent:
Sure, sure. When they're all blended into your classroom, what normally happens during Fantasy Week? If we were not on a dismissal, what are some of the things that you would be doing that you haven't been able to do?

Becky:
Well, there's quite a few. We would have a Charms Class where they learn to use their magic wand and due to the beautiful remote candle situation that you can buy, we can actually teach them spells that make the candles go on and off. We can teach them the spell that makes water shoot, because if you've ever gotten one of those little syringes and really pushed it, you can shoot water about 30 feet across the room. If you really want to, we can get the spell. I've got a little one that shoots fire. So there's a lot of things like that we can do live that you just can't recreate online.

Superintendent:
Wow. That sounds fantastic.

Becky:
We can't play Quidditch.

Superintendent:
Quidditch? Tell me how does Quidditch work?

Becky:
Okay. Quidditch. You get to classes in the gym and they have a broom. If you do anything and you're not on your broomstick, it doesn't count. So their broomstick is a pool noodle and they have to be on the broomstick all the time. The basketball has hula hoops hanging from it, and they're worth different points depending on how low they are. And then, of course, you've got kids with foam bats, whacking foam balls at other kids, as they're running around, trying to shoot baskets into the hoops, but the game doesn't end until that one seeker catches the bouncy rubber yellow ball. That's the snitch that's floating around. So Quidditch is huge.

Superintendent:
It sounds absolutely awesome and unforgettable.

Becky:
I think we're going to invite next year's class back to play with us and have a first and second year tournament since they weren't able to do it this year.

Superintendent:
That's a great idea. I'm sure it was a big disappointment to the kids that they weren't able to be part of the tournament I would imagine. What are some of the things that you've done to adapt to online learning and to move Fantasy Week online?

Becky:
Certainly, making the recordings has been a big one. We've done a lot of recording of the lessons. That's one thing we've done, but I was talking a little bit about her biology, where we get to do plants and we study plants. And so normally we would bring them into the classroom and we would study these magical plants and write about them. It's all about writing the fantasy. So this time we got to send them out into the world and they got to go out and look for plants that they found were interesting and write about them and create magical stories about the plants and the actual world. So that was a big thing.

Superintendent:
It's a great time to get them out into their world a little bit, get them outside and discovering some things.

Becky:
Yes. In fact, there was another one we were able to do differently. We do a dragon hatching. It's all about writing fantasy. So on one day they get this dragon egg and they have to learn to take care of it. Then we were able to have them sit for 24 hours. So depending on the color of the egg, they had to find a certain condition spot. Some had to be outside, some had to be in a completely green place. Some would only hatch if they kept them in a very dark place. And so we were able to utilize them, having to take their eggs outside into the world, to get them to hatch where we couldn't do that here in the classroom either.

Superintendent:
Sure. Wow. That's incredible. There's no detail you haven't thought of in making this a full interactive experience. How did all of this start? How did Fantasy Week begin?

Becky:
Well, there is a teacher and I need to credit her. Her name is Reagan Faye. She works down in the Washington District right now. She was trying to get her kids engaged in the different genre. They didn't seem to care about what genre they were reading. They were missing that question a lot on test. What genre is this? We don't know. So we started finding different ways to introduce the genres. And this is hers. She happened to be a Harry Potter fan. So it started with one day as Fantasy Day. And then, it grew into a couple of days and now it is Fantasy Week. And next year we're talking that we will probably have to expand a couple of days to catch the tracks. It started with her.

Superintendent:
Immersive and that's the best kind of learning. And I have no doubt that it's unforgettable for the kids that get to be part of it. And I absolutely will be there next year to witness Fantasy Week myself. I can't wait to see a good game of Quidditch in person. That's fantastic. What are some of the feedback that you get from students about this event?

Becky:
Less this year because they're not right here in front of me, but if it's a good tale at all, when we went online with school and it started to look like we wouldn't be coming back, the single biggest question I got from parents and kids, what's going to happen to Fantasy Week because they know when you hit third grade, it's part of your third grade experience. So they didn't really ask about grades or how we were going to manage that. They did want to know how are we going to do Fantasy Week.

Superintendent:
It's kind of a rite of passage. I'm a third grader so I did Fantasy Week.

Becky:
It absolutely is. The feedback is just across the board positive. I think because it's so writing intensive this year at home, the kids have struggled with the writing a little bit. We're not there to help them with the writing. One of the hardest things to do from home has been writing. But beyond that, boy they've been engaged and active and just doing their best.

Superintendent:
It sounds as if the Fantasy Week activities just combined very nicely with what they need to be working on. Anyway, math, science, writing, reading.

Becky:
Yeah.

Superintendent:
And it's very imaginative and creative and engaging. So bravo, congratulations. This is fantastic. Is that your phone?

Becky:
It is. And I probably should have turned that down a long time ago. I'm sorry.

Superintendent:
No, it's okay. I figured it was probably me again.

Becky:
No, that's Professor McGonagall. Oh, okay.That's my online school. Sounds like your phone and your computer is dinging constantly.

Superintendent:
It's obvious to me, how much you care about the kids that you teach. You've been working really hard to make things work for them still amidst all of this. Your Fantasy Week is really amazing. It's really something. And for you to continue to do that and to go to all this work on top of all the extra work you're doing is just remarkable. So congratulations to you and the whole team. I love it. I honestly cannot wait to be there next year and see it in person. Anything else you'd like to tell us about Fantasy Week?

Becky:
Well, I can't say too much about the house cup because that's going to be awarded in about 30 minutes. So I'm guessing most of third grade will be online waiting for that one for sure. I just wanted to take a minute to mention that. I don't know if you see the pictures, the kids are all wearing a school uniform performance were donated by one of our families here at the class, in the school through Utah Tax Specialists. So he actually donated the shirts for Fantasy Week this year. And I wanted to be sure and mention how much we appreciate that and just what a great thing. The community has really come together and helped us out and been there. And there hasn't been anybody that said, no, we can't do that. Or we won't do that. It's more been, let's find a way to do that. And my team as well has jumped on the crazy train with me and said, yes, let's do this.

Superintendent:
Well. Like I said, this is exactly the type of learning we like to see. Its teachers pulled together and unified. It's students competitive and unique and engaged in unified, but it pulls in parents and the community in ways that you just can't replicate. So that's fantastic. I'm so excited for you and good luck to each house and be the best.

Becky:
Thank you so much. Stay with us. We're going to take a quick break. And when we come back, we'll stop by Professor Jamie Watkins' virtual classroom, to talk with some of her Harry Potter in person and hear about the potions they've created to deal with COVID-19.

Break:
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Superintendent:
Professor Watkins. It's nice to be in the great hall with you.

Professor Watkins:
Yes, you too. Thank you.

Superintendent:
I see you have platform 9 3/4 behind you there.

Professor:
Yes.

Superintendent:
That's a really impressive on location. Nicely done. And these third graders, tell me about the project they've been doing.

Professor:
So it's a Green Gotch track and they were assigned this track on Wednesday. And basically we just told them to use cardboard materials, tape, and paper, and then they were to come up with a track. The goal was to be the longest working track. That is, and as you can see, they've used a lot of different household materials and their creativity. And so far, we've had all successes. I've noticed that those marbles roll exactly where they're supposed to. Yeah, they're doing great. Mason, can you tell me what house are you in? Mason.

Mason:
Slytherin.

Professor:
You have a bit of a Slytherin luck. Let me see. You've got a little Malfoy going on. I think I see. Do you have a slitter and flag behind you there? Mason?

Mason:
Yeah.

Superintendent:
That's great. Nice job. What do you like most about Fantasy Week Mason?

Mason:
You get to use your creativity.

Superintendent:
What are some of the things you've done creatively this week?

Mason:
The spells.

Superintendent:
What did you do with spells?

Mason:
Practice on my sister.

Superintendent:
Practice on your sister. Wow. What did you turn her into?

Mason:
Aa toad.

Superintendent:
Wow. Wow. Have you turned her back yet or have you decided you liked her better as a toad?

Mason:
Better as a toad.

Superintendent:
Okay. Well fair enough. As long as your parents allow that, I guess you can do that as long as they'll let you. Is she your older sister or younger sister? Okay. Well that seems about right.

Professor:
So all of those students were assigned potions classes and they made potions. But at one point that they were able to make their own potion, using their own creativity.

Superintendent:
Oh. So tell me about your own personal potion.

Professor:
Hey, your potions book. You need to open up the big dusty, old one that I'm sure you have in the kitchen where it's written in. It turns you into whatever creature you desire.

Superintendent:
Oh. So the person who takes the potion gets some choice in the matter. And what did you use to make your potion? Can you share that with us or is that more of a secret? What ingredients are in your potion?

Professor:
Mason, do you want to hold it up and show us seven dragon tea, the men to breath, three eyes of a toad, feather of a Phoenix.

Superintendent:
Can you get those on Amazon or where do you go to get those?

Professor:
Yes.

Superintendent:
Oh, of course. Of course my mistake.

Professor:
Hold up your potion again. It's delicious.

Superintendent:
Did you try it?

Mason:
No, I have like 10 more days until I can. First years are not allowed to drink potions.

Superintendent:
I see. So if you were to have some Mason, what animal would you want to turn yourself into?

Mason:
A cobra snake.

Superintendent:
A cobra. Wow. Watch out for those mongooses. Okay. All right. Well thank you Mason.  David, can I ask you a question? What house are you in, David?

Superintendent:
You're in Slytherin. What do you like about Fantasy Week?

David:
That it's Potter for any fan to see. We get to do magic and coaching..

Superintendent:
Sophia, what do you like most about Fantasy Week?

Sophia:
That I get to be with my teacher and my classmates.

Professor:
Sophia joined our class while we were off track. And so we have never got to actually meet face to face.

Superintendent:
Oh, wow. Well, Sophia I'll bet everyone's looking forward to meeting you too. Professor Watkins, what do you like most about Fantasy Week?

Professor:
I like actually the night before we released all of our lessons, it felt like Christmas Eve. It was so exciting. And I couldn't wait to see how excited they would be when they received their wizard kits and all the pictures they've been sending in. It's just been so magical and I just enjoy the magic part of it. I liked the owl pellet. It was fun.

Superintendent:
Tell me about the owl pellet, Sophia

Sophia:
Seven jars. And I just liked it because my snip ones.

Superintendent:
For skulls. Who's that?

Sophia:
An eight. Josh, Mason.

Superintendent:
Oh, Mason. Tell me that again. Mason,

Mason:
Mine had four heads and eight jaws, six heads and jaws. David, yours had six heads and five jaws. Nine had like mine had like two mice. So like two bodies of medicine. Really? You have to get yours.

Superintendent:
Two heads.

Superintendent:
Sophia. What do you like most about Fantasy Week?

Sophia:
I liked making potions. I like making pygmy puff again, sweetie. It picked me.

Superintendent:
Puff.

Sophia:
It's a little creature that can't survive on its own. So we adopt.

Superintendent:
And what's its name?

Sophia:
Cutaway Cuddly.

Superintendent:
That's a good name. It looks like it lives up to its name. Joe, what do you like most about Fantasy Week?

Joe:
I liked the potions.

Superintendent:
What potion did you make?

Joe:
I made a cure potion for all sicknesses or diseases.

Superintendent:
Wow. That's good timing. This is exactly the time we need to cure all potion. Great job. Ricky, Joe, David, you have your hand up. Tell me about your potion.

David:
As four or five rocks mermaids here. It can make a clone of you.

Superintendent:
Like you just drink it and you sit down next to you. Is the clone the one that you would make clear the table and load the dishwasher?

David:
Yes. Not just those that also clean the dishes for me because I always have to clean in my sister. My son would do my sister's dishes.

Superintendent:
Oh wow. So your clone would do all of the dirty work. Is that what you're saying?

David:
Also do my home only when it's bad homework, not good homework.

Superintendent:
Like making potions. You guys have some great ideas and some great potions. I love it. Sophia, tell me about your potion.

Sophia:
It's called Bye-COVID.

Superintendent:
It's called Bye-COVID.

Sophia:
Yeah.

Superintendent:
So we'll get rid of COVID. Right? That's very practical and creative. Thank you for sharing this with me. I have not talked with any students that had such great potions before, so thanks you guys. Great job. Thank you.

Thank you, Professor Watkins for all the extra work you're doing to make this happen. When you already had lots of extra work, trying to teach online. So thank you. This is fabulous. I can understand why it felt like Christmas Eve when you were waiting to give the kids this experience the next morning. This is fantastic. And like I told Professor Marianne, I cannot wait to see this next year.

Professor Watkins:
Yes. Yes it is. It is phenomenal. She is definitely the brain behind all of this.

Superintendent:
Well, thanks again for spending time with me. Thank you so much. We're going to take one more quick break before we wrap things up with Black Ridge Elementary school principal, David Butler.

I'm Steven Hall, Director of Jordan Education Foundation. In today's challenging and uncertain times, it is more important than ever before to support one another. Here at the Jordan Education fFoundation, we invite you to join us in making sure children are not going hungry. Your $10 donation to the Foundation will help us feed one student for a weekend. When food and meals may be very scarce for some, with food and hygiene supplies and the Principal's Pantries at Jordan School District being depleted and in higher demand than ever before. Every financial contribution made will help us to keep the pantries filled for students who would otherwise go without. The Jordan Education Foundation exists due to the generosity of people who care about kids. If you would like to donate to help children from going hungry, please visit Jordan Education Foundation.org, or contact the Foundation at (801) 567-8125. Thank you together. We can make a difference.

Superintendent:
We're here with David Butler, Principal at Black Ridge Elementary school to talk about Fantasy Week. How are you this morning?

David:
I'm doing great. How are you?

Superintendent:
I'm doing great. So this is Mr. Butler's first year at Black Ridge and so he has experienced Fantasy Week for the first time as principal. Unfortunately he has experienced it only online, but exciting things have happened this year. What was your first impression of Fantasy Week?

David:
You know, I have heard about Fantasy Week from the day that I got here at Black Ridge and all of the kids really look forward to it. And when we went out of school due to COVID-19, the teachers were especially concerned that their kids got to participate in Fantasy Week. Seeing what they've done online has just been an inspiring experience. It's just blown me away.

Superintendent:
Tell me about some of the things that have particularly impressed you that have been happening online to continue the Fantasy Week tradition.

David:
From what I understand in the past, they've decorated their classrooms and it really brought a full experience to the kids. And so this year they really felt like with school being out, they needed to bring that experience online. And so we had a couple of parents decorate their whole basement and they filmed videos and dressed up like Dumbledore and all the vendor and Professor McGonagall, even sorted the kids using a sorting hat and made these videos that the kids participated in, learning at home but felt very immersed in what was happening.

Superintendent:
That's amazing. It's a great example of families and the community diving in and being connected to the school and what's going on there.

David:
Yeah, they even had another parent donate their student uniforms and the kids all got a t-shirt that they had to color the color of their ties. Anyway,  it was great to see everybody pitch in and help. I know that man's name was Bill Koehler. We appreciate him from Legacy Accounting, he donated the uniforms.

Superintendent:
That's fantastic. What is your role as principal in all of Fantasy Week?

Speaker 5:
You know, as the principal this year, I kind of watched. I know they had told me that I would be dressing up like Dumbledore and going into each of the classrooms, but where they did everything online, the parents really stepped up and did all of the videos and everything that way. And so I have kind of just overseeing and watched in awe as the teachers and the parents have been involved and made this happen.

Superintendent:
Do you have your Hagrid costume ordered for next year?

David:
You know, I actually have been thinking about which one I'm going to order, so we will be ready. I'm leaning towards Old geez. What's his name?

Superintendent:
Hagrid with the kind of a cool costume. I can see you pulling off a Hagrid and I think that would be good. What what do you have next to you there? You've got the house cup you have there? This large goal?

David:
Yes, this is the house cup. And every year we put the winners and this year Hufflepuff won a cup. It started in 2016 at Black Ridge and you can see here that Hufflepuff is the winner. The teachers love this because it helps the kids be part of something that's bigger than just themselves and even their classroom. And they felt like they needed that more this year than any other year due to being out of school.

Superintendent:
It really is admirable, the effort that's gone into this. Teachers are already working so hard, doing so much extra. Parents are under stress and for everyone to chip in and go above and beyond to make sure this happens no matter what and happens with style is really inspiring.

David:
Yeah. I agree.

Superintendent:
Anyone who isn't familiar with Fantasy Week might just think that it's all fun and games and the learning stops during this week, but that's not true, is it?

David:
No. They integrate all of the curriculum into these activities. I know that the students do science and math and a lot of writing. In fact, they do a research project. One of the writing assignments, for example, is on a dragon egg that had hatched and they had to come up with their story, a narrative story on that. They have watched and done these potions. And I think one of the students' favorite activities was  "do-it-yourself-potion", where they came up with what they wanted to put in a potion. One of them actually delivered one to the school and it was really quite gross. It was a caterpillar in honey and he would give it to our secretaries.

Superintendent:
And what did he tell you that caterpillar in honey would do? What was that potion's power?

David:
I actually didn't get the backstory on that. The secretary just brought it in and said, "Oh my gosh, what do I do with this?"

Superintendent:
Well, as I spoke with students earlier. Some of them claim to have cured Coronavirus with their potion, which I thought was pretty awesome. It was really impressive to talk with the students and teachers earlier. What have you seen from teachers that has surprised you through Fantasy Week?

David:
You know, just their sheer dedication. You know, they've decorated little parts of their classrooms to make their own videos. They've worked with parents to make sure the videos are just stellar. They've obviously gone above and beyond because they love their students and care about them so much. That's what's been inspiring to me. We just have some amazing third grade teachers that are willing to stop at nothing to make sure that these kids have this experience

Superintendent:
Being new to the school, were you surprised at how the community came together to make sure that Fantasy Week happened no matter what?

David:
Yes, I was. I was blown away to be honest. There were two parents I really feel like we need to mention. It's Don and Suzanne Johnson. Don and Suzanne Johnson just stopped at nothing. You know, Don dressed up like Dumbledore and was out front at the school when all of the kids came to pick up their items. He also dressed up like all Vander and taught them how to use their wands. At one school, Susan Johnson dressed up like professor McGonigal and did the sorting hat. She was also here when the kids picked up their wands and their potions and their uniforms and everything else that got sent home with them. And so we really appreciate Don and Suzanne as well. Great, great parents.

Superintendent:
What are some of the reactions you've heard from the kids to Fantasy Week and how it's gone?

David:
You know, the kids have been just totally excited.  I've been surprised at how many emails I've received from parents stating that their kids are telling them to send me pictures. And it's really fun to see the pictures that have been sent. It shows the kids sitting in front of their computers with their teacher on the screen, dressed up and they're doing potions and learning how to use their wands. It's just inspiring to see.

Superintendent:
It sounds like the learning and the experience is completely immersive.

David:
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely.

Superintendent:
All right. Well, thanks a lot for the time, Dave. We really appreciate it.

David:
Not a problem.

Superintendent:
I can't wait to come next year. I'll be there for sure. Okay. Awesome. Thanks Dave.

David:
Thanks.

Superintendent:
We'll see you on the Hogwarts Express this fall, but in the meantime, remember, education is the most important thing you'll do today. We'll see out there.

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