We returned to in-school Books & Badges readings with a huge, 14-classroom reading at St. Mary Magdalene School in the Hilltop. You may remember this is the school that we recently made masks for at the request of Columbus Division of Police Officer Scott LaBrake, and that Starfish Board Member Deputy Chief Tim Becker went to school as a child. (Read about that Assignment here.)
Principal Courtney Ryan invited CPD and Starfish to come back to read to the kids when they returned, and that day was today! The CPD Therapy Dog Unit came to see the 6-8 graders and so many CPD officers come to read to the K-5 graders that we're pretty sure we missed taking pictures of a few.
Every child the officers read to received a copy of their book to keep.
Kindergarten: Why Do Animals Hibernate?
First: Paddington Sets Sail
Second: Our Principal's In His Underwear! (Poor Miss Ryan! Haha!)
Third: Flat Stanley and the Very Big Cookie
Fourth: Where the Sidewalk Ends
Fifth: The Truth (and Myths) About Weird Animals
The classes are split in half for Covid-19 safety, so every grade has a morning and an afternoon session. Kindergarten has two classes in the morning and two in the afternoon. If you add that up, that meant that ideally, we needed 14 officers. Ofc LaBrake did a great job getting officers to read, including many who were alumni of St. Mary Magdalene that Chief Becker recommended.
It was fun for the students to hear from officers who'd once roamed those same halls. Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Dent got to tell her children that she'd taught Ofc Livingston. One of Chief Becker's teachers is also still there, and we got to see him today, which is a bit more shocking because Chief Becker is slightly older than Officer Livingston. The Chief was in Mr. Julius Palazzo's first class in 1976, and Mr. Palazzo told us he was terrible in fifth grade, but by the time he reached eighth grade, the Chief was his favorite student. 😂 He VIVIDLY remembered him!
We were thrilled to hear that the teacher whose class Ofc Livingston read to, Mrs. Isenbarger, has been following Starfish even before we were officially established. We were honored to meet her and hear about her long-term support. How fun that she's been able to watch all of this unfold and then we get to take Books and Badges not just to her school but to her very classroom. Hi, Megan!🥰
The kids loved having the officers in their classrooms. They had lots of questions, not all of them police-related. When Community Liaison Officer James Poole read to the kindergartners, they wanted to know his favorites--favorite food (spaghetti and chicken), color (red), and video game (Mario), and it just went on from there.
Ms. Talebi's afternoon fifth graders had an undercover detective read to them, so they DID have police-related questions for him.
"Have you ever had a gun pointed at you?"
"Were you scared?"
"Yes! Wouldn't you be?"
Indeed we would! The kids asked him what happened, and he explained that a police K-9 actually took care of the situation for him.
Many officers were asked if they liked donuts, and what was on their gun belt, which Chief Becker was asked in both of Ms. Andreski's classes. In the morning, the Chief was asked if he loves his job and he emphatically said yes, that he loves going into work, and that when he's away he misses it.
In the afternoon, one child asked him what the hardest part of his job is. "That's easy," he replied. "I don't even have to think about it. Telling someone their child died. Even before I had kids, that was the hardest part and it never got easier."
When some of the kids said they were a bit afraid of the police, the Chief talked to them about how he didn't like the police growing up, but that they're there to help people. He said how rare it is for a police officer to have to shoot someone. In his own academy class, which graduated 32 years ago, only three officers have ever had to use their weapons in the line of duty.
The kids in all the St. Mary Magdalene classes were wonderful. They were so enthusiastic about having visitors and being read to and were so polite and respectful.
Thanks to CPD, our Starfish volunteers, and the students, teachers, and staff at SMM for making this special day happen!