A Red Deer teacher and her students are giving warm blankets and a message of hope to those in need.
Janelle Van Tetering, a Grade 4/5 teacher at École Mountview Elementary School, recently provided a blanket for every student in her class. The students then wrote letters to accompany the blankets, which will be donated to The Mustard Seed and distributed to help keep the city’s most vulnerable warm through the winter.
“I wasn’t really sure what to expect, it being my first time doing this with my students. They were amazing. The letters brought tears to my eyes,” Van Tetering said.
The woman posts projects she does in her classroom to Instagram and follows other teachers online who do the same. About a year ago, she saw a post from a teacher whose class was participating in the Blankets of Hope program, which has donated more than 31,000 blankets and handwritten notes to those in need.
She attempted to introduce the program last year, when she was a kindergarten teacher at Normandeau School, but wasn’t able to due to COVID-19.
But this year she contacted Blankets of Hope and was able to bring the project to her new classroom.
“I reached out to my mom and my stepdad. For my birthday I asked them to buy blankets for each student in my class,” she said.
Through the Blankets of Hope program, students participated in a kindness workshop, which features videos and exercises. One of those exercises was an empathy session, where the students closed their eyes and imagined what it would feel like to be homeless.
“Afterwards we talked about the kind of thing they could write. We talked about what kinds of things they would want someone to say to them on their very worst day,” she said.
“When I first asked them what they would write about, everyone was kind of quiet, so I thought maybe they aren’t understanding the heaviness of this. I just let them start and when they handed me the letters, it was incredible.
“The things they were saying without me even prompting them – I couldn’t believe it. I was shocked. I just kept reading them and kept saying how proud I was of them.”
After the letters were written, they were tied them to the blankets and will be brought to The Mustard Seed Monday.
These aren’t the only letters Van Tetering’s students have been writing this year. Her students recently started a project where they became pen pals with local seniors.
“We talked about how with COVID, a lot of older people can’t see anyone and are feeling lonely and isolated,” she said.
“All the kids got partnered up with a resident and wrote their first letter this past week. … It’ll be a weekly thing, where my students write to them asking questions about themselves, telling them about themselves and then we’ll get letters back”
To follow Van Tetering’s classroom projects, visit www.instagram.com/KindnessandKrayons.