Classroom Connection: Business shows it cares | Opinion

From Tallahassee Democrat

Students need all the love they can get.

Mine need even more.

As the teacher of special needs students at Ruediger Elementary, I’ve learned that a little bit of extra attention goes a long way.

What my students have recently received is a whole lot more than “a little bit.” Thanks to the Greater Tallahassee Chamber’s Classroom Connection program, my students have been showered with attention and more is on the way.

In case you hadn’t heard, Classroom Connection is a program through which local businesses “adopt” a classroom to provide support in whatever form they see fit.

Apparently, my class hit the jackpot! We were paired with Brown and Brown Insurance and couldn’t be more honored and pleased. The first thing Brown and Brown did was become pen pals with my eight precious students. That’s eight personal letters from eight different Brown and Brown employees.

For many of my students, it was the first hand-written letter they had ever received. As one student observed, it even had postage! Another exclaimed: “I got a letter!” One student couldn’t wait to write back and tell the new pen pal about a sibling who serves in the U.S. Army. Another wanted to write about fun things at school.

These letters are priceless and the prospect of receiving them regularly is incredibly exciting to the students.

But the love from our Chamber partner doesn’t stop at letters. Just a couple days ago, Brown and Brown asked for my classroom’s “Amazon wish list,” a compilation of classroom needs. And the firm is also participating in our school’s food and coat drives. Because Ruediger is a Title 1 school, needs are always great.

This partnership is particularly meaningful because of the special needs of my students. Some of my students are in wheelchairs or are non-verbal. Some will understand the full concept of a pen pal and other acts of kindness. But all of them will know something special was done for them.

Because of the unique nature of my class, sometimes we are left out when it comes to extra-curricular activities and programs.

Not this time, thanks to Brown and Brown’s 32 employees and especially Greg Jaap and Alex Wittman, who are coordinating the effort. It’s my understanding Brown and Brown is posting information on its social media pages about how to donate food and coats and help in other ways.

I am so thankful and appreciative of the Chamber and Brown and Brown for this partnership. In a time of division and negativity it’s amazing and uplifting to see our local businesses working to build up our community and make it a better place for all.

Caitlyn Whitley is a special needs teacher at Ruediger Elementary in Tallahassee.