When things in life are difficult, sometimes the smallest acts of kindness can make all the difference.

Staff members at Washington Elementary know this to be true. Wednesday, they spread that message throughout Sedalia as they participated in the “Washington Waving Wagon.” More than 30 vehicles driven by staff members and friends took part in the event that was the idea of Washington second-grade teacher Mary Houston.

Houston said she found the idea while scrolling through Facebook recently.

“I came across a post from another teacher where she had drove around the neighborhoods to visit and wave to her students,” Houston explained. “I loved the idea and shared it.

“Some other teachers had commented they would like to do it as well so I thought we could do something small with a few of us and that it would be nice for our kids,” she continued. “Then Mrs. (Michelle) Hofstetter jumped on the bandwagon and planned it all out. I did not expect the turnout to be nearly as amazing as it was. Washington is one big family and it showed in this very moment.”

Washington Principal Lisa Volk was also pleased and surprised by the turnout.

“This is becoming more like a train than a wagon,” Volk said as she watched one vehicle after another pull into the parking lot at the school. “I just can’t believe how many teachers and our friends and family came to be a part of this.”

While practicing social distancing, those present made sure to send air hugs to one another as they decorated their vehicles with colorful posters, window paint messages, balloons and streamers.

More than 30 vehicles departed the parking lot, waving and honking as they made their way throughout the neighborhoods of their students' homes and through the streets of Sedalia.

According to Hofstetter, the staff started talking about it and it immediately became a whole-school effort.

“It went from sprinkles of staff to innumerable,” Hofstetter explained. “Information was pushed out on social media asking families to let us know if they would like a ‘wave-by.’ I was able to, then, draft a route for our ‘Washington Waving Wagons.’”

Hofstetter commented the entire staff at Washington misses each and every student.

“It was important (to do something) because we want our students to know how missed, supported, and loved they are,” Hofstetter said. “Also, it was important so we could see their smiling faces, which hopefully resulted in some happiness and a calming sense of comfort and wellness for staff, students, and families while we are apart.”

Some of the students knew of the event and were prepared with their own messages for the wagon train as it rolled by. According to Hofstetter, families commented on the DOJO post, one of Washington’s primary means of communication, that they’d like the wagons to “wave-by.”

Hofstetter added she suggested “that, if possible, maybe they (the parents) could keep it a secret until the moment. Some students did know though, because they had sweet, fun signs prepared as we waved by.”

The event was beneficial for students and those who took part in the event.  

“It has been so affirming and amazing to see our entire school staff rally and offer daily love, resources, and communication via remote learning,” Hofstetter noted. “Although we are apart, it helps maintain our home-school connection and the bond between teachers and students. I believe our ‘Waving Wagon’ effort supports what Sarah Miller, a Washington Title teacher, said when she commented, ‘We’re a little school with the biggest heart.’”

Education Reporter

Hope Lecchi is the education reporter for the Democrat, covering all things education in Sedalia and Pettis County, as well as providing general assignment and feature coverage. She can be reached at 660-530-0144.

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