By Jim Siegel


Celebration schools may remain closed, with online distance learning still in session, but that did not deter the Celebration Foundation from honoring local teachers with a kick-off to National Teacher Appreciation Week.


The Blast-off event, as it was called, was organized by the Celebration Foundation as a means to recognize teacher contributions to our community, in spite of the continued pandemic restrictions.  Explained Foundation Executive Director Kathleen Sipio, “Given the reality of COVID-19, we knew that the well-deserved recognition for teachers this year was going to be much more difficult.  In the past, PTAs and local businesses rolled out special events at the schools each day.  With online distance learning in place, much more imaginative and unconventional effort was going to be required.”


With input from its Advisory Council, the Celebration Foundation Board found an innovative solution.  With teachers supporting their students remotely during the week, the Foundation invited teachers to come to them … in front of the school!  A “Thank A Teacher” sign was placed in the grass at the school to plant the seeds, volunteers were organized, and the word went out by email, phone, and social media:  “During the hours of 10 am and noon on May 2nd, drive thru the side of the K-8 School on Mulberry Street, be recognized by local residents, and receive treats specially for you.”  That applied to teachers of all Celebration schools, public and private and even Celebration residents that teach in Osceola County. Plus our retired teachers were invited as well.


Sure enough, on Saturday morning the teachers arrived curbside, most by car, some by bike, and one on foot pushing a stroller with two small children.  To the cheers of residents, teachers were handed a bag with a delicious donut , another bag with a caramel taffy apple, and a “heart” sign to post in their lawn or home window to show the “love” for our essential workers.  All the sweet treats were purchased to support local business with donations from community supporters; a double win for our town!


“We loved seeing teachers be appreciated by our community,” said Ms. Sipio.  “Since teachers are so busy teaching our children during the week, we know that they have lots of things to do on a Saturday morning.  Yet over one hundred of them came to be recognized at our event.  One of them, third grade K-8 School teacher Carol Hamilton, rode her bike 17 miles one way from her home in Kissimmee.”  Wow!


The Foundation also recently organized Operation Uplift, encircling the Celebration Advent Health Hospital complex with over 50 custom-made signs to express the community’s gratitude for the tireless efforts of the staff there to serve and protect us during the pandemic.  Residents can order one the Foundation’s “Heart” signs from the Foundation website, to be delivered by the Foundation to any local residence, building, or business.  Exclaimed Ms. Sipio,  “Let’s paint the town red in honor of our healthcare workers, first responders, teachers, grocery store employees and delivery drivers.  All these members of our community are essential today and every day.” Operation Uplift will continue to support the Celebration community, essential workers and spread positive acts. Every day.