Each year Title 1 schools are required to have a parent event, however, this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, Westwind had to improvise.

Westwind Principal Brandy Copeland decided to find a way to incorporate parents by planning an event that would include them. That is when she came up with the Teddy Bear Surprise event.

Copeland said that because first graders experienced the shutdown while they were Kindergarteners, they have had a harder time catching up.

“With the gaps that we had from the spring and first graders having to make more gains in reading levels than any other grade level, we were trying to come up with a way to provide a way for kids to read at home,” Copeland said. “We know that everyone may not have a reading buddy at home, so we got the bears to kind of take that place.”

Along with Westwind Media Specialist Angela Howard and Secretary Patti Ford, Copeland got to work to figure out what would be the best way to achieve this goal.

Howard said researched first grade level books and was able to find books for each child to take home. One book has five stories and there are two additional books, giving the students seven different stories to practice reading with.

Copeland said she wanted to have an extra incentive for students to read the books at home, so she decided that it would be fun to include a soft, cuddly teddy bear for the students to read to.

“The bears are also just a symbol of comfort for them to know that we care about what is happening at home and we care about their learning,” Copeland said.

Howard explained that she wanted to include the parents as much as possible.

“Since one long-term goal is to involve the parents in reading at home, I decided to create a flyer to send home with the kiddos for their parents, that included reading tips, questions to ask while reading, and places for families to go in order to gain background knowledge,” Howard said. “Parents and children need to know that reading takes place everywhere – not just at school and not just for academic reasons. Reading is fun!”

Along with several other Westwind staff members, the ladies gathered up all the bears and laid them out on tables in the cafeteria. The first graders came in to find their surprises waiting for them.

Howard also hosted a Facebook Live on the Westwind Facebook page so that parents could tune and watch the surprise happen!

“Events like this let our students know that we care about them when they are away from school and that we value their learning,” Copeland said. “We were glad to see the happiness and joy on their faces!”

Westwind would like to thank the following additional people for their help in making the Teddy Bear Surprise so much fun:

HEB – donated bags for kids to take bears and books home

Cyndi Salle and Lori Howard – helped prep the bears for the students

Stephanie Lara with Glitz and Grain – created wooden Frenship tags to include with each bear