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Washington Irving Students Deliver to Essential Workers

Like many teachers reaching out to students during the pandemic, Kaycee Von Essen sees great lessons in small actions. The reading teacher encouraged the staff and students at Washington Irving to write letters to essential workers.

Von Essen started an internal mail system called “Wee Deliver” before the COVID-19 outbreak based on the United States Postal Service Wee Deliver campaign. She wanted to promote reading and writing skills. The mini post office also fostered a sense of unity throughout the school. In the month before the pause, more than 1,000 letters were written and delivered by WI students and staff.

Von Essen knew students would miss each other when they started distance learning, so she decided to expand the concept of We Deliver.

“All around my neighborhood and in communities throughout the country people began thanking the first responders and essential workers on their lawns, through social media, etc.,” said Von Essen. “While it is our responsibility as teachers and families to be home and be safe, I wanted the students to share their voices about what exactly essential workers do and who they are.”

The idea is so successful that students and staff members have written more than 200 letters to a variety of essential employees, grocery store workers, police, fire, military, garbage collectors, mail carriers and health care providers. These community members have all worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.

Fourth grade student Leo Zohar said, “It is important because it is very nice of the doctors to take up all their time to help stop the Coronavirus and to help save people’s lives every day.”

Von Essen collaborated with the Doubletree Hotel in Tarrytown. The staff is displaying the letters in their lobby. Von Essen hopes more communities will see the gesture and want to contribute.

She views the gesture as a way to spread hope in these uncertain times and quoted educator Randy Pausch who said, “Showing gratitude is one of the simplest, yet most powerful things humans can do for each other.”