Teachers at a high school in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa lined up to greet students with cheers and handshakes.
UNITED STATES.- Hundreds of thousands of ArIzona schoolchildren returned to classes Friday, a day after state lawmakers approved 20 percent raises for teachers and they ended a six-day walkout that shuttered most classrooms around the state.
Teachers at a high school in the Phoenix suburb of Mesa lined up to greet students with cheers and handshakes. An elementary school principal greeted students with high-fives on the other side of metro Phoenix.
Educators returning to work at San Marcos Elementary in the suburb of Chandler traded in their red protest t-shirts for shirts with their black and blue school colors and its bear mascot. Wearing sunglasses and smiles, they hugged and wrapped their arms around each other’s shoulders to start the day.
In Jennifer Boettcher’s first-grade class, students had a breakfast of muffins, milk and juice waiting for them.
“I’m so happy to see you, you' ll grew this much,” Boettcher said while raising her hands. She checked their meal progress as she called out names for attendance, ensuring one student had a juice carton in front of her and reminding another to hang up his jacket.
Outside, preschool students populated the playground for the first time since last Thursday. They raced down slides and soared on a swing set, the sound of their giggles mixed with the chirping birds while a teacher called out to them by name.
Jolene Gallup, a media specialist and reading intervention teacher, was thrilled to come back. She said the #RedforEd movement was empowering, as she’s been teaching in Arizona for 20 years and has seen budgets slashed.
She sees around 100 to 110 students a day, and says the school, with a population of around 600 preschoolers through sixth graders, is like a family. That closeness made the choice to walkout difficult, she said.
“The whole time you were down at the Capitol and seeing the signs and seeing the marching, your thoughts were with the kids in the classroom,” she said.