Local teacher uses her Christmas spirit to motivate students during pandemic
A local school teacher spread some holiday cheer in the spring by putting up elaborate Christmas lights in her yard every week over the past two months so her students, sent home unexpectedly because of the threat of COVID-19, could drive by and enjoy.
Kate Gomez, a first year second grade teacher at Woodway Elementary in the Midway ISD, first put out the lights the first week of April when she realized they likely weren't returning to class.
"I remember thinking 'man if it was December we could go get in the car and go look at Christmas lights' because we have five Midway students here at home so I thought 'you know, we could still do that," Gomez said.
So Gomez and her family pulled out the Christmas lights just three months after putting them away and created their first light display in the form of hearts on the front lawn.
"I sent a note to my students, to my parents, and let them know 'hey, every Friday I'm going to change the lights in my yard and come take a picture or use it for motivation for your kiddos to get their work done," Gomez said.
The first week was a huge hit as Gomez sat in the yard and watched her students pass by.
Each week the crowds grew as Gomez changed the theme. She had everything from positive messages of "You are Brave" to flowers and another message that displayed school pride.
One week, the teacher even included a math problem which was tied to the students' at-home lesson that week.
"We had everything from 'Panther pride' written in lights to an area problem that we put out when we were learning area," Gomez said.
Gomez said every student in her class, but one who lived too far away to get there, streamed by her house at some point to enjoy the lights.
The most popular display happened this past week when the teacher helped celebrate her students' graduation from second grade.
Gomez had a sign that read "look out third grade here I come," accompanied by a "3rd" in lights. She invited her students to come by and take a picture with the display and her.
Gomez said she believes the lights helped keep her connected to her class and accomplished her goal of spreading cheer during such an unsettling time.
"We had a sign that said 'let light shine out of the darkness' and who doesn't love Christmas lights? We all needed something to make us happy," she said.
"I loved it. I'm going to miss seeing them every Friday."