Creekside reads well past 100

Published 10:07 pm Thursday, February 14, 2019

Thursday was very special for Creekside Elementary School as the 100th day of school was celebrated with reunions, costumes and hundreds of books.

This celebration started as a collaboration between the school and the Chick-fil-A at Harbour View, then grew to include numerous other community partners, all in an effort to get 100 books read to the students between 10 a.m. and noon on Thursday.

There were 80 volunteer readers from Nansemond River High School, including students with the varsity football team, the Ladies of Distinction, the DECA chapter and Crime Stoppers, according to Creekside Elementary Principal Tara Outland. About 30 more volunteers came from the Walmart on College Drive, Believers Church, Chick-fil-A and Suffolk Public School administrators.

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They had a goal that would foster reading habits in the students, and these guest readers crushed it, with a total of 286 books logged as read, Outland said.

“We just want them to see the importance of reading and for them to grow as readers,” she said.

The school was fully decorated for the occasion. There were 100 balloons in the lobby. Staff were wearing their “100th day” shirt proudly, and students also got to dress up like they were 100 years old. Some had their hair dyed gray and others were wearing silly wigs, glasses and robes.

The NRHS students got a kick out of the younger students’ enthusiasm.

“It was nice to see all their faces, and they laughed at everything,” said NRHS freshman Alexis Olsen, 15.

Superintendent Dr. Deran Whitney sat with Leigh Sante’s kindergarten class and read “Caps for Sale: A Tale of a Peddler, Some Monkeys and Their Monkey Business” by Esphyr Slobodkina.

The children sat quietly as they heard about the mischief surrounding this peddler’s caps. It reminded them of the paper hats they were wearing, each with “100 days smarter” written on them.

They acted out some of pointing and mannerisms by the characters, and answered Whitney’s questions about what they thought was going to happen in the story.

After that, they got to do their best impersonation of the peddler by balancing a stack of hats on their own heads. Kindergartner Betty Kean, 6, was able to balance about a half-dozen on her head at once.

“It was a little heavy and crazy,” she said about the balancing act.

Thanks to wonderful teaching by Sante and the other teachers, it was easy to get the children to comprehend the themes and main idea of the story, Whitney said.

“It also allows them to use contextual clues based on what they’ve heard so far,” he said. “It’s really about getting them to try and think.”

The morning readathon was also a wonderful experience for former teachers, like Whitney and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Suzanne Rice.

“I love being with the kids,” Rice said. “Whenever I get an invitation to be with the kids, I’m there.”

Sandy Hightower, a former kindergarten teacher from Northern Shores Elementary School who retired in 2017 after 33 years of teaching kindergartners, got an exciting invitation to read for Sarah McKee, a former student of hers who now teaches kindergarten at Creekside.

Hightower jumped at the chance to combine her love of reading, children and her former student into one tearjerker of a morning.

“She was always so much fun and full of energy,” McKee said about her former kindergarten teacher at Churchland Academy in Portsmouth. “I felt like it was just a fun family, and she loved everybody.”

The two have kept in touch over the years. When McKee was preparing to teach kindergarten in China from 2011 to 2017, Hightower offered up her closet of old classroom essentials.

When Hightower was reading the “Wonky Donkey” book to McKee’s students, her old calendar set was hanging on the wall behind her, still being put to good use.

“It was not a coincidence,” Hightower said. “It was God’s work saying you’re going to pass it down to one of your former students. That’s when everything went full circle.”