Faces of CIS: Amanda Madea Shares a Cup of Coffee & An Open Ear To Remind Teachers They Aren't Alone
In the first weeks of April 2021, school officials at Allentown School District’s brand new Brigadier General Anna Mae Hays (Hays) Elementary School were busy preparing for students who would explore unfamiliar hallways after nearly a year of virtual learning. The new school, which merged two of the district's former elementary school communities, had a delayed opening for in-person learning since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. Now, with the new building almost ready, another part of the school community set foot in new classrooms for the very first time: teachers.
After months of connecting with students virtually, teachers at Hays Elementary would now see students both in-person and on screens. Among those planning for a new hybrid learning model was CIS of Eastern PA’s Community School Coordinator Amanda Madea, who had been supporting the new school community through virtual events, meal distribution, and other distanced activities since the start of the school year.
As she prepared for students' return, she felt anxious about navigating a new building and connecting with unfamiliar students and families - and she quickly realized that she wasn’t the only one who felt uncertain. As a community school coordinator, Amanda connects students and families to tailored supports, but she’s also an important resource to teachers. With a lofty goal to create relationships with Hays Elementary teachers while easing back-to-school nerves - all in the two weeks before students returned - Amanda brought the school community together with a simple gesture: coffee and an open ear.
With a mobile breakfast cart in hand loaded with fresh coffee and treats, Amanda traveled floor-by-floor across the new school building in the days before students arrived, stopping in teacher’s doorways as they prepped their new spaces, introducing herself and asking questions.
“After a difficult year of feeling disconnected, and returning to a brand new building with a merged staff and new administration, I wanted to find a way to genuinely connect to all the new (and familiar!) faces as well as show appreciation for all our staff has done over the past year,” shared Amanda. “What better way to do that than to share a cup of coffee with someone and chat!”
With some teachers unfamiliar with the role of a CIS Community School Coordinator, Amanda also distributed cheat-sheets with her picture, contact information, and more information about how she can help in situations when student and families need extra support.
“I quickly realized that the coffee cart was more than just a tool to connect a name with a face, but an opportunity to learn about each individual staff member, learn which school they came from, and share our excitement and nervousness for our slow return to normalcy,” said Amanda. “I feel like that cup of coffee lifted spirits and gave them a chance to take a "break" from the hustle of preparing for students' return. For me, I was able to feel connected to the work again and the people I say "good morning" to in the halls.”
“Opening a new school during a pandemic has proven to be a monumental challenge. It has been very difficult to bring a staff together while having to stay apart. Amanda Madea, CIS coordinator at Hays, helped make everyone feel welcome, and for a brief moment at ease, as she steered her coffee cart through the shiny, new halls of Hays Elementary during the first week of teachers returning to the building,” said Principal Naaman Schlegel. “This simple act left a large impression on our staff and was a highlight for many from those first few mornings in an unfamiliar building.”
During a time when teachers have experienced mounting pressure to adapt to changing teaching models and virtual instruction during the pandemic, Amanda’s gesture is a testament to the Community School Model, which celebrates collaboration in creating a school culture that reflects all stakeholders, including educators.
Want to learn more about the CIS Coordinators connecting with students in your community? Find more Faces of CIS HERE.