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‘Extra special’

Teacher surprised for her birthday as students pass her house, waving, holding ‘We Miss You’ signs

Photos submitted to Times Observer Barb McCluskey can’t hold back happy tears as her students wave and beep as they pass her house on Saturday in Youngsville.

In a time of social distancing and school closings, kindergarteners of Youngsville Elementary found a way to wish their teacher, Barb McCluskey, a happy birthday.

Youngsville Fire Department helped to escort parents with students in McCluskey’s class past her house on Yucha Street on Saturday afternoon, honking and waving to their teacher with signs that read “We Miss You!!!,” “Happy Birthday,” “You’re the Best Teacher!,” and “I Love You!”

“It was wonderful and it was planned by a mom, Miranda Walters,” Barb said. “She wanted to surprise me with as many of my kids as she could because she knows we miss each other. She contacted my daughters for help and they told her it is also my birthday on Monday, so it was extra special.

“My family told me to get showered for the day,” said Barb. “I thought maybe they were setting up a Zoom chat with my extended family to sing to me and visit. Mike works Monday, so I assumed they were doing it when he was home with us. Then I heard the fire truck and they told me to get my shoes on! Sara Rowland was the passenger in the truck and a volunteer with Youngsville Volunteer Fire Department and was my student years ago. So I was excited to wave to her. When the first vehicle came into view, I realized these cars had my students in them. That’s when the tears started! I miss them so much! I keep in close contact with my families via a classroom Facebook page. So, I know they are all doing well. To have their parents help them make signs, buckle them into their boosters and drive past my home purely out of love is overwhelming and solidifies why I love teaching. Building trust with the families is so important as they send their babies to school for the first time. I assure them that I will care for them and love them while they are with me, while obviously teaching them.”

Walters said she knew from the moment she met Mrs. McClusky that her son, Jansen, was in good care.

Photos submitted to Times Observer Youngsville Elementary kindergartner Elizabeth Benjamin.

“It started at kindergarten registration,” said Miranda. “Barb said something that just stood out to me, She said, ‘I hope you guys don’t mind, but once I have your child in class, I will forever refer to him or her as one of my kids.’ From that moment, she has proven that true! Barb is 100 percent about her kids. She goes above and beyond for every child in her class as if they are her own. She is loving, caring, and honestly just a great person.”

Barb’s daughter Leah is 21 years old and graduating from St. Bonaventure University. Her other daughter, Ellie, is 18 and finishing her first year at JCC, and will transfer to Clarion’s nursing program in the fall.

“They have only said one time in their lives (that) ‘WE are your kids,’ as I (also) speak about my students as my kids,” said Barb. “They understand my commitment and passion for what I do! We have an amazing staff at Youngsville Elementary who put all we have into our students.

“I had been scheming in my head how to get to see them with proper social distancing,” said Barb of her kindergarteners. “It turns out that Miranda Walters and my daughters were one step ahead of me.”

Walters said Barb had been continuing to reach our to parents of her students the first two weeks off of school due to the governor’s order.

Photos submitted to Times Observer Youngsville Elementary students Jansen and Bowen Walters.

“She would post updates about what she was doing with her time and wanted to see what our kiddos were up to,” said Miranda. “She encouraged us to post pictures so she could see their smiling faces. They loved seeing hers! She missed her kids, and they all missed her!

“I heard about people driving by other houses and doing little mini parades and I instantly thought of her,” said Miranda. “I knew this would bring a smile to her face but also the kids. With all of the uncertainty and fear right now, why not give them something to look forward to? So I reached out to all the parents and, of course, they were in. I asked everyone to make a sign that they could hang out the window. Surprise! It was also almost her birthday! The only rule — No one was allowed to get out of their vehicles. I wanted to make sure to continue the social distancing. I contacted the Youngsville fire chief and asked him if they would escort us by her house. As we all know, small towns are the absolute best at doing these things! He was on board! I then got in contact with Barb’s daughters and arranged a time for them to sneak her out to watch. I honestly just wanted Barb to know how loved and missed she was by her kids and how much we as parents appreciate her. The video shows pure love and we need more of that right now.”

By Sunday evening, the video had been viewed on her daughter Ellie’s Facebook page over 6,000 times since Saturday.

“She says it is the best gift she has ever received,” said Ellie.

“The virus is a concerning situation our nation is facing. I am embracing my time home with my daughters and when my husband can be home with us. We have been diligent in our social distancing. Thank goodness for social media! It keeps me connected!,” said Barb. “We have to focus on those positive things happening. The St. Joe’s teachers parade and the beautiful article about Katie Tremblay with a shout out to other teachers as well. Teaching is truly the best job and so important to build those relationships. They last a lifetime! I still see Mrs. Patty Seth, my third-grade teacher from Home Street in Warren. She hugs me and says she loves me. That is a true teacher!”

Photos submitted to Times Observer Youngsville Elementary kindergartner Laura Shellhouse.

“I am always preaching for our boys to always be kind, if nothing else be kind,” said Walters. “As we drove away, my son Jansen said, ‘mommy, did you see how happy we just made her?’ My job was done.

“Jansen said it was ‘amazing to see his teacher and friends!’ Also, he loved seeing all the signs that his friends made for Mrs. McCluskey and it just made him really happy. All his words.”

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