Last November, Grosse Ile fifth grader Ava felt conflicted emotions when her teacher – MEA member Jaime Churches – won election to the state House of
Representatives. She wanted Churches to win, but she didn’t want her to leave the classroom.
On Thursday, with the school year drawing to a close, the youngster’s eyes lit up as she got to see her former teacher in a new environment as part of a field trip to the Capitol for fifth graders from Meridian Elementary School.
“I feel proud of her, because she’s doing a good job and it’s her dream job – even though teaching was her dream job too,” the girl said. “I hope I can be like Miss Churches and follow my dreams.”
Churches’ victory last November, in a tight race that wasn’t called until 5 a.m. on Nov. 9, was among the final races that clinched control of the chamber for Democrats. But the thrill of winning was mixed with grief over leaving her students.
On Thursday she had the joy of seeing them again. Stuck in a committee meeting that ran long that morning, Churches caught up with her class near the Capitol lobby and was immediately surrounded in a swarm of youngsters hoping for hugs.
Fifth grader Brandon wondered if her pay was higher in the new role, ultimately concluding she made a good decision to run despite having to give up “something big” in teaching. “Sometimes you have to give up something to get to the next level,” the boy said.
Churches was able to corral House Speaker Joe Tate (D-Detroit) for a photo with the students. “He’s like the principal of this place,” she told the kids about the top leader’s position.
Later as the students, teachers and chaperones moved outdoors for lunch on the lawn, the children vied for Churches’ attention with chatter and questions.
“We saw your seat—we looked down on it,” one boy said.
“OK, well that big room you looked down on – that’s where we make the laws and we push the button to vote,” she replied.
“Will you sign my Jordans?” he quipped.
“Do you work every day?” a young girl said (Yes). “What’s your schedule like?” (Busy.)
Finally Churches gathered the students for a group shot before rushing off for a noon House session.
Another student, Aaralyn, watched it all with stars in her eyes.
Her former teacher was fun and caring, Aaralyn said: “She was always excited when we worked hard or did good.” And though it was sad to see Miss Churches go to a new job last January, seeing her now as Representative Churches was something else, the youngster added: “Inspiring, definitely.”