Denise Zettek has a relationship with each of the 600-plus students at Thomas Jefferson Elementary School where she teaches health and physical education.
Zettek began writing letters to as many of her students as possible to maintain contact with her students when school buildings were closed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she said.
But she wanted to reach more students faster.
So, she cut out 1,000 hearts by hand and wrote each student and staff member’s name on them, posted them on the front of the school and notified the school community.
Parents and their students came to the school to find their name and take a photo with their heart, Zettek said.
The hearts are a topic of conversation with extended family and students play a version of “I Spy” when they come and look for their name, Zettek said.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect the reaction it has shown,” she said. “As simple as it was, it meant a million times more in their eyes.”
The gesture also has helped Zettek cope with the abrupt ending to the 2019-2020 school year. She felt sad and grieved the loss of the year and her time with students, Zettek said. Zettek could think of a special memory of each students as she hung each heart, she said.
“I think in a way it has been healing for many of us and offers a little positive closure to this school year,” Zettek said.
Principal Vicky Foster said the entire school community is proud of Zettek for the gesture.
“It was a heartfelt gesture that shows (Zettek’s) dedication, care and compassion to our entire learning community,” Foster said.