As Isabella Quantrille stepped out the front door of her North Spokane home Friday afternoon, she scarcely felt the chill.
It was gone in seconds, replaced by the warm fuzzies of a bright blue sweatshirt and the sight of the woman who had just handed it to her.
“Hello, there, Bella, we really miss you,” exclaimed Judy Reavis, her 5th-grade teacher at Logan Elementary School in northeast Spokane.
Reavis spoke in a voice that lifted the spirits of everyone on the front porch, the family Chihuahua included.
It was a voice that said despite all that’s happened in the year of COVID-19, all will be well, and that distance learning doesn’t mean you must always keep your distance.
“How about an air high-five?” Reavis said through her mask before Bella retreated into the arms of her mother.
During the dark year of the pandemic, Reavis has been a bright light in the tunnel that stretches back to last March. Bella and her classmates are due back at Logan on Feb. 17, but damage has been done.
At Logan, more than 90% of the students receive free or reduced-price meals. Many parents work for low pay in the service industry – that is, if they haven’t been laid off.
Most are just trying to hold it together, doing their best to help their children through the purgatory of distance learning.
“It’s been a struggle at times, I’m not going to lie,” said Bella’s mom, Laurie Rayner, who has two other children at home. “Even though it’s tough being home, I feel lucky and blessed.”
So does Reavis.
“I miss my kids, and that’s why I’m out there every single week,” said Reavis, now in her 30th year at Logan.
Bella’s house was the third stop of the day for Reavis, who would go on to visit students on the South Hill and one in Airway Heights – such is the dislocation of families in the Logan neighborhood that the school has a full-time employee who helps them deal with eviction and other housing issues.
In Spokane Public Schools and other districts, many teachers are going beyond their laptops. However, few are doing like Reavis; the visit with Bella was her 100th overall since the school year began.
That means Reavis has visited each of her students at least three or four times since September.
She’s delivered the goods: Thanksgiving pies, books, paper, prizes, clothes and often her laptop “when kids say theirs isn’t working,” Reavis said.
Friday’s treat was the blue sweatshirt donated by Spokane Community College; every child on Friday’s outing received one.
The gifts are nice, but the biggest gift is Reavis herself.
Her principal, Brent Perdue, compares her to a cheerleader.
Even on the other side of a laptop, “she really finds ways to lift them up,” Perdue said. “The big thing is she can empathize with them and see what it’s like to be 10 or 11 years old and stuck at home and not see your friends.”
According to Perdue, she also can read their body language. “She can see that dejected look on their faces when they’re logged in and asking when they can come back to school,” Perdue said.
Earlier on Friday, Reavis visited the home of Ebraheem Darya, who stepped outside to get some encouragement along with his sweatshirt.
“I’m ready to go back to school,” Ebraheem said while his grateful mother watched from the porch.
“Thank you for supporting him, thanks for all your efforts,” she told Reavis, who waved and jumped back into her car.
Later they stopped by the home of Gabe Dunn, who walked out of his front door in a short-sleeved shirt.
“Try it on,” Reavis said. Dunn did so and beamed at the perfect fit.
“I think I’ll wear this when I go visit my uncle later today,” Dunn said. “But I can’t wait to get school because I miss my friends – and Mrs. Reavis.”
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