Teacher Christine Goce talked with her students about heroes, like police officers and firefighters.
And those who serve in the military.
Goce’s boyfriend is in the Army, training as a combat medic at Fort Sam Houston in Texas, in the Foxtrot Company of the 232 Medical Battalion.
“I showed the students a picture of my boyfriend and other people who serve,” she said. “So that they would understand and think: 'Oh, this is someone I know – this is a real person, not just a picture.’ It made it very real for them.”
Most of the troop members haven’t seen their families in months. Goce, a long-term substitute filling in for a teacher on maternity leave, said she hasn’t seen her boyfriend since April.
“Just hearing how much people miss their homes and families gave me an idea,” she said.
She decided to have each of her students write a note that said, “Thank you, Soldiers,” and draw a picture to go with it. Her plan was to put the notes in a book and mail it to her boyfriend’s troop as a surprise.
The kindergarteners could either copy or trace the words. Goce had them sound out the letters.
“It was good writing practice,” she said. “Some of them added their own messages.”
Then she asked them to draw a picture to go with the words.
“They had to think: ‘What would a soldier like?’” she said.
Goce's favorite drawing was of two soldiers sitting on the swings together. Another favorite depicted the “Toy Story” army men.
“It was a fun way to send them something nice and get some good writing done,” she said.
She mailed the book the same day the students had made it. Her boyfriend received it a few days later.
“He told me that they all were so excited and touched by it,” Goce said. “They loved trying to decipher the words and loved the creative pictures.”
A few weeks later, she received messages from the troop.
“There were four pages of handwritten notes,” she said. “Some signed their names, some wrote very sweet messages, like: ‘This reminds me of my child at home,’ and ‘Thanks for keeping us going!’”
Using her laptop and a document camera, Goce was able to project the messages onto a large screen for the students to see.
“This was very exciting for them,” she said.
Shortly after that, Goce received a photo.
The entire Foxtrot Company was posing with the book the students had made.
And they all were holding up their hands, doing the “Quiet Quail” wave.
“The kids loved it!” Goce said.