Aspiring Educators Find Community in Service

In an annual tradition made difficult by the pandemic, aspiring educators from Michigan State University have again completed a service project at an area school to show appreciation to educators and see firsthand the power of community in education.

The group of about 20 future educators spruced up a staff lounge at Waverly Middle School in Lansing, cleaned up the landscaping at the building’s entrance, and assembled baskets of school and health supplies for all 40 of the building’s teachers.

Organizer Chloe VanSickle, vice president of MSU’s Aspiring Educators of Michigan chapter – MEA’s pre-professional wing – said the staff lounge was a dreary and neglected space, because scarce resources tend to go to areas used by students. But educators also need a comfortable place for a break, she said.

“We wanted to thank them for all they do, especially in this last year and how crazy it’s been. We wanted to give them a little space where they can go and take their mind off things for a minute, enjoy a break, get a cup of coffee, sit on the couch and relax.”

The staff lounge received a coffee cart with supplies including a Keurig coffeemaker, and an inspiring new bulletin board, rug, and lighting, among other décor improvements. Teachers received a basket with a hand-painted canvas, treats, tissues, hand sanitizer, and assorted school supplies.

Outside, a memorial tree planted in memory of a former teacher was fenced to protect it from foot traffic and damage, and the planted areas in front of the school were cleared of weeds and filled in with mulch.

“We want our members to realize the importance of forming connections with the community, and how making those connections and working together can make a huge impact on a school,” said VanSickle, an aspiring high school social studies and Spanish teacher.

One year ago, the group had to cancel a planned in-person service project at Mt. Hope STEAM School in Lansing. However, supply baskets were assembled last fall for all of that school’s teachers instead.

It has been important to continue the tradition despite the pandemic so new members can experience the power of connection, service and community, said Brittany Perreault, the MSU AEM group’s president and an aspiring special education teacher.

“For those teachers in the school where we do the project, it’s nice to feel appreciated even if it’s from the next generation of educators,” Perreault said. “And for our members, I’m so glad to have future leaders experience firsthand the value of being part of a community.”

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