The Teacher Hospitality initiative, an inaugural concept for the LPA (Lovett Parent Association), commenced in the Lower School. Meg O’Keefe explains how the idea materialized. “Katie and myself were discussing how the teachers were working so hard with all the changes associated with COVID-19: spending more time outdoors, having less time for breaks, and no access to cold drinks or ice. Katie had already started dropping off Starbucks Cold Brew for the teachers, when Katie and Meg brought up the idea of stocking the break room to the LPA Lower School Committee. It quickly grew from there.”
In addition, the Lower School had requested an ice maker for the break room. As the Lower School refrigerator needed to be replaced, the LPA thought that this was a good opportunity to upgrade and purchase a new refrigerator with a built-in ice maker.
Various steps were involved to bring the project to fruition. The committee selected items, based on suggestions and feedback from teachers and staff, to be added to an Amazon Wish List. Parents were sent the link to the Wish List, where they were able to select and order items to be delivered directly to the school. Initially, the Lower School reorganized the break room to create space for the treats. From there, parent volunteers signed up to help unpack deliveries and restock items each week. The committee collaborated with Jordan Holden (LPA LS Vice President) and Pringle Jackson (LPA Teacher Appreciation Chair), as well as Edi Houghton, Jennifer Boutte, and Lee Anne Gilmore from Lovett. A big thank you to Edi Houghton for taking the initiative to Mr. Choi for approval, and to Lee Anne Gilmore for helping to coordinate stocking times and package deliveries, and for cheerleading the LPA’s desire to purchase a new fridge with integral ice maker for the Lower School break room. We would also like to thank Lovett’s Director of Plant Operations, Brian Holtzapfel, for spearheading the procurement and installation of the fridge in order to make this much needed upgrade.
Katie explains the importance of the Hospitality Initiative. “In such an unprecedented and unique year for everyone, teachers and staff had such extreme challenges to overcome. They were asked to keep our children safe and pivot between in-person and virtual learning, all while likely feeling anxious about the pandemic landscape themselves. We desperately wanted to show our gratitude in a tangible way. When we commenced the initiative, Lovett parents
clearly felt the same way. The entire Wish List was sold out in just 48 hours”!
“Hearing the positive responses from teachers after the initial stocking of their break room was the most enjoyable part about working on this initiative,” said Pringle. “We wanted to keep it a surprise, so we stocked the room on a Thursday afternoon – by Friday morning, we had received many kind notes of thanks.”
The initiative was soon extended to the Middle and Upper Schools. “We were so excited when we heard the other schools wanted to mirror the project,” said Meg. “The heads of the committees reached out to Katie, Pringle and myself and we were delighted to share our process, successes and challenges with them.”
“Once we heard how much the Lower School teachers appreciated the initiative, we were eager to roll it out to the Middle School,” explained Keneshia Woodson. “Having the guidance of Meg, Pringle and Katie was invaluable, and we used their experience to replicate the Wish List for the Middle School. We were especially appreciative of Debbie Franks and the Middle School Administration, who liaised with teachers on their preferred snacks and drinks. This helped to ensure that teachers and staff could enjoy everything the parents ordered. We were also grateful for the support of Bertelie Jules and Perelini Bush from the Middle School office.”
“It was only when we arrived to unpack the boxes that we realized just how much Lovett families had donated,” added Fiona. “Boxes were piled high and a good few hours were spent initially unpacking and sorting items, and then stocking the break room so the treats were easily accessible. Every time we restocked, teachers thanked Lovett parents for their support and generosity. We’d also like to thank committee members Dana Almond, Bo Byrne, Anne Rogers and Alana Zrno for their help in ensuring the break room was continuously stocked.”
The Upper School committee sent a survey via the Upper School office to solicit snack and drink ideas from faculty, and then consolidated the list into a manageable size in order to offer items with the largest positive responses. “Items arriving in the office has been one of the major success stories of this initiative,” commented Catherine. “We’d like to give special thanks to Kelly Scott and Angela Morris-Long from the Upper School office who have been amazingly helpful to us, and to all the parents for their generosity. We look forward to their continued support this year.”
Lessons learned from the initial phase of the Teacher Hospitality Initiative will certainly be applied to the second wave. “Now we have more experience and feedback from last year, we will be able to prioritize what items are enjoyed and needed the most, and adjust order amounts accordingly,” explained Burch. “More than ever, we are beyond grateful for our Lovett teachers, staff and administration for all they have done to ensure in-person learning. The second wave will give us yet another opportunity to show our support.”
All of the committee co-chairs have thoroughly enjoyed supporting teachers and staff through what has been a truly challenging year. The response from parents has been overwhelming. So many families wanted to show their gratitude for our amazing Lovett teachers and staff, and the Hospitality Initiative has given them a tangible and meaningful way to do so. Katie sums up perfectly. “The Teacher Hospitality Initiative was an exceptional way for Lovett families to give that little extra ‘thank you’ to our amazing teachers and staff. We are forever grateful for their perseverance during this difficult school year that has somehow brought us even closer together as a Lovett community."
As the LPA solicits volunteers for the 2021-22 school year, what advice do the Teacher Hospitality Committee Co-chairs have for parents looking to get involved?
“Volunteering is a great way to get to know other parents as well as the administration and teachers at Lovett,” said Pringle. “This year is tough because volunteering doesn't look the same as it has in years past. For me, the Teacher Hospitality Committee has been a great way to stay connected to the school and to give back and say thanks to all the faculty and staff who have made in-person learning a success.”
It has indeed been a challenging year, but this hasn’t stopped the committee from executing activities and meeting new people. “It also provides the opportunity to meet other parents outside of your child’s grade,” adds Catherine.
For Fiona, volunteering has helped her family’s transition to the United States and to a new school. “Through LPA initiatives, I have met some wonderful people and made new friends, which has really helped us adjust to our new life in Atlanta.”
Keneshia is a working parent. “Initially, I thought it would be impossible to become a volunteer as I work full-time. As a school social worker, this has been one of the hardest and busiest years given the impact of COVID-19. To my surprise, I was still able to find roles that fit my schedule. And not only did I become a parent volunteer, I even co-chaired this really exciting initiative! My experience has enabled me to build relationships with staff and parents that I would not have had the opportunity to do otherwise.”