CULLMAN, Ala. – Though 2020 has made it impossible to hold Veterans Day events packed with parents and grandparents, Cullman City Schools still found a few ways to bring some pomp and circumstance to the holiday this year — all while maintaining social distance and keeping everyone safe.
At East Elementary School and West Elementary School, COVID-19 protocols meant the traditional Veterans Day assemblies and reception programs wouldn’t be possible. West typically hosts a massive reception, which fifth-grade teacher Keenan Fowlkes says has grown into one of the school’s most beloved traditions. At East, the school would traditionally host an assembly celebrating local veterans and honoring them on-site.
With those events off the table this year, the staff at East and West got together to incorporate some of those traditions into a new medium — a Veterans Day video to show students, featuring those events and traditions, interspersed with interviews from students thanking local veterans for their sacrifices.
“My fifth-grade students at West, and even their parents, were disappointed we couldn’t do our traditional program,” Fowlkes said. “Kids often tell me they look forward to coming to fifth grade just for that reason! So, to make sure they were still a part of things this year, I made sure to include each fifth-grade homeroom in the video, and that was great. I also pulled some of them for interviews, and my homeroom was so honored to recite The Preamble.”
East Elementary teacher Briana Bauer said students there were excited to take part in the video, and that they were able to find a safe way to still honor Veterans Day this year.
“So many of our students feel the effects of being a military family and know the sacrifice that comes along with that. When offered the chance to be a part of a program, or in this case, a video, students light up at being able to be a part,” she said. “They love to tell stories of their grandparents or parents who are veterans. It’s humbling to hear a child speak of ‘their veteran’ with such honor and pride.”
Bauer said the Veterans Day program has always held a special place in her heart, as her father is a veteran and was always in attendance at the school’s annual program.
“My children loved to introduce him to their teachers and friends as if he was a superhero, because in their eyes he is just that,” she said. “I know that our typical program couldn’t happen, but I am so happy that both schools were able to come together for such a worthy cause. I love the unity of having one video for all Cullman elementary students to see.”
At Cullman Primary School, teachers made a point to incorporate Veterans Day education and activities into their curriculum this past week. Cullman City Primary School Reading Coach Erica Rutherford said they taught students about what it means to be a veteran and helped them find creative ways to celebrate the freedoms the veterans helped protect.