In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, which was last week, we’d like to tell you a little about an event we recently attended that celebrated everyone involved in the educational process and raised funds for educational endeavors in our Harrisonburg schools – the annual Harrisonburg Education Foundation Gala.
While we probably all agree that education in itself is important (i.e., learning is important, curiosity is important, cultural progress is important), our educational system has become highly politicized during my fifteen-year career. Supporters of teachers have for years bemoaned the paltry salaries of teachers, asserting that teachers work far more hours than most full-time employees and receive, hour for hour, far less pay. Others believe we do nothing but “babysit” kids all day and then get a three-month vacation. But I’ve always believed that if you made teaching a high-paying job, it would attract the wrong kind of person to the profession. Because let’s face it: to be a teacher, you can’t really be selfish. Or greedy. Or materialistic. You wouldn’t last a day. You can’t apply a capitalist, profits-driven model to public education. We welcome all students – not one is turned away – regardless of whatever gifts or shortcomings they have, and we take them as far as we can. Period. We get no bonus for exceeding some quota of successful students. That’s proof enough that we don’t do it for the money. We do it because we love young people. I know, because I am a teacher, and so is Brandy. And not to toot our own horns, but teachers are givers, not takers. We’re givers – we give to students, give to our colleagues, and give to the community, maybe more than you know. And we don’t have a ton of resources with which to give, and neither, it seems, do the politicized entities who employ us. So we find a way to provide for each student’s needs, regardless of who’s in office or the political climate or whatever. We find a way because we love the kids.
And because public education is a non-profit enterprise, it needs to raise funds from time to time. That’s where organizations like the Harrisonburg Education Foundation come in. Their sole purpose is to supplement local, state, and federal support by raising funds to “award grants, provide scholarships, and support enrichment opportunities in the Harrisonburg schools” that otherwise might not be possible. And especially when money’s tight and budgets are slashed, Harrisonburg Education Foundation’s work becomes absolutely vital. They keep programs in place that might otherwise fall victim to a crappy economy and apathetic politicians. Harrisonburg students’ education is better because of HEF and the folks—companies and citizens alike—who graciously donate to it. With the help of volunteers and donors, they throw one humdinger of a party, celebrating everyone involved in our schools and collecting some much-needed funds, too.
So Brandy and I were honored and excited to be invited to this year’s HEF Gala at the Barn at Kline’s Mill (one of Early Katering’s two venues). This place is lovely. Located in Linville, the Barn sits on ten gorgeous acres with inspiring views. It seats up to 250 people and can be used for all sorts of occasions, from weddings to family reunions. They have another location in town, on Evelyn Byrd Avenue, which seats about 120 and has a more traditional rather than rustic atmosphere. Or, they can cater your event wherever you desire to have it. Their menu is HUGE, and having attended several events catered by Early’s, I can safely say that every item is delicious. Being teachers who are used to wolfing down half a Lean Cuisine in 16.5 minutes each day, Brandy and I were probably more excited about the ample buffet than anything else.
We donned our country and western duds and drove on out to the barn for a fun evening of dancing, eating, drinking, socializing, and money-giving! I listened to Black Sabbath in the car beforehand to prepare for a heavy dose of country music, and on the way, we were greeted by this rainbow:
The inside of the Barn is clad in beautiful, light-colored pine walls and lit with large, soft white globe lights. Scores of dining tables filled one side of the barn and a bar, food tables, bandstand, and dancing area comprised the other side. Plenty of room for mingling, glass clinking, face stuffing, and boot stomping.
The evening went like this: a silent auction, followed by a line-dancing lesson, and then a live auction, delightfully interspersed with meatballs and artichoke dip and fresh fruit and trips outside to gaze at the beautiful landscape and bleat at nearby sheep.
Dozens of businesses and individuals donated auction items, including
* Movie night for ten with popcorn
* Drum lessons
* Whine-and-Dine with the Superintendent
* a wagon full of gardening tools and supplies
* lift tickets to Massanutten
* several gift baskets (one for dogs, one for cats, one called Family Game Night, one called A Day at the Beach)
* exercise-related packages from RMH, Crossfit, Hot Yoga
* a river trip
* JMU tickets
* tutoring sessions
* tickets to HHS events
* and a whole bunch of other prizes. Like 60.
You could also purchase a bottle of wine for $20 and possibly win a prize that way! The line dancing was a hoot – the instructor yelled, “Grape vine! Kick! Stomp! Shimmy!” but the pupils did more like shuffle-bump into the person next to you-stumble-laugh… at first, anyway. Then they got the hang of it and were really quite good!
Lots of people attended the party, and I couldn’t help but notice that many of them – most of them, probably – were teachers, raising funds for their own profession. And I wondered how many of them would drag themselves out of bed the next morning — Sunday — and go diligently to their classrooms to prepare a few more things for the week… taking time away from their own families to serve the greater good.
Look, there are still like three full weeks of school left, so if you (woopsie) forgot to appreciate a teacher last week, there’s still time. Trust me — we accept thank you’s, tokens of appreciation, and free stuff ANY TIME. If you don’t currently have a teacher, think back over the teachers of your past and surprise one of them. If you are a teacher, pat yourself on the back, pour a glass of wine, thank God the year’s almost over, and know that we love you, very very much!
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