In the time before coronavirus, most Lincoln Middle School teachers – understandably – ran in grade-specific circles.
Same students, same challenges, same problems.
Geography and a heavy workload also played a role in the segregation.
The sixth-grade wing at Lincoln Middle is on the opposite side of the building from the seventh- and eighth-grade area, and teachers generally use the hour set aside for planning to work, not for socializing and inconsequential banter.
Recently, however, sixth-grade English teachers have been spotted with eighth-grade math teachers, and seventh-grade English teachers are actually rubbing shoulders with instructors from Lincoln Elementary School, according to Angie Connelly, a social-health teacher who has students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.
What once separated the Lincoln Middle teachers – the students – has brought them together in an effort to feed hundreds who might otherwise go hungry while classes are suspended. Connelly estimates that 90% of Lincoln Middle employees, including office staff, are assisting with the ongoing Food on Foot effort to get meals in the bellies of hungry students.
“You don’t often get to engage in conversation, as well as see each teacher throughout the day,” Emily Sexton, a sixth-grade English language arts teacher said this morning. “However, being a part of Food on Foot has given our staff the opportunity to come together as one to support our kids and their families.”
Lincoln Middle participation in Food on Foot was nothing like a rolling snowball growing larger as it traveled down a mountain.
It was a full-bore avalanche.
Shortly after Hamblen County school classes ended on March 16, Sexton began collecting money to donate to Food on Foot. Connelly leads Lincoln Middle Beta Club and held the same position at Hillcrest Elementary School. The beta club members at both schools routinely performed community service at Food on Foot.
When Carolyn Jarnagin, Food on Food president and founder, expressed concern that some Lincoln students likely do not have access to reliable transportation to pick up food bags at the agency headquarters on Berkline Drive, full mobilization at Lincoln Middle took fewer than 10 minutes, and a new food-distribution point was up and running.
“It blessed my heart,” Jarnagin said. “They said, ‘We’re willing to do anything.’”
Lincoln Middle staff went beyond what Jarnagin had expected. They identified students had no access to a vehicle and dropped the food bags off at their doors.
“We have been blessed with the opportunity to partner with Food on Foot and excited to see how this ministry is impacting so many,” Connelly said. “Carolyn Jarnagin is an angel from God.”