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Teachers spend night on roof

By Staff | Nov 16, 2016

JADE HEASLEY/The Luminary Montgomery Elementary School teachers and staff were on the roof almost as soon as school let out on Thursday, November 3.  From left to right are: Dianne McCormick, Andrea Hetner, Jodi Furman, Joi Sullivan, Alyssa Gochnauer, Julien Deljanovan, Pam Martzall, Vanessa Follmer, Douglass Knapsack, Tara Condit, Karen Snyder, Kim DeLullo, Chelsei Hendricks, Jill Ulrich, Jeanine Marquette, Sam Mix, and Rae Temple.  

MONTGOMERY – For the fifth year in a row, a group of teachers from Montgomery Elementary School have literally gone above and beyond the call of duty by spending an entire night on the roof of the school. The rooftop ritual is a reward to the student body for their fundraising efforts and participation in the school’s Walk-a-Thon. The school gave the students a fundraising goal of $6,500 and they delivered.

This year’s rooftop camping adventure began almost as soon as school was dismissed on Thursday, November 3rd and ended shortly before classes began on Friday the 4th. The popular local event draws hundreds of school children as well as parents and former students. The faculty members welcomed onlookers with big smiles and warm greetings, but the children tended to be the most excited spectators because the faculty members showered them with handfuls of candy and prizes. Some of this year’s items included water bottles, rubber duckies, windup toys, necklaces, and glow-in-the dark super balls. Donations of candy and prizes were provided by the PTO, teachers, and parents.

Three of the teachers, Joi Sullivan, Douglass Knapsack, and Pam Martzall, said that the idea of spending the night on the roof was a concept that was developed by a team of teachers who were brainstorming ways to provide incentives for the students. Initially the idea was to spend the night camping in the school parking lot but they assumed that tents full of teachers may have been appealing to pranksters so they decided it would be better to camp on the roof instead.

While the event may be all fun and games for the kids, it can be challenging for the faculty. They spend the entire night on the roof, and the neighborhood noise and activities can make it hard to get restful sleep. Nearby residents sometimes burn leaves, skunks can run across the school grounds, trains can roll through town at any time of night, and garbage trucks making early collections can be distracting.

Weather is another challenge. The event is usually held around Halloween time so the temperatures can be very cold. Due to fire safety codes, the teachers can’t have any type of open flame or any electrical heaters so they have to resort to more basic measures of staying warm such as thick layers of clothing, heavy-duty sleeping bags, and hand warmers. Joi Sullivan commented that some years the temperatures drop so low that she sleeps with a hand warmer across her nose to stave off the cold. The first year they awoke to find that it had snowed during the night and a generous dusting had covered everything. Douglass Knapsack good-naturedly commented, “Teaching is not for sissies.”

Despite the challenges, the teachers enjoy their yearly ritual and they receive support from the school community. Virtuoso, the high school’s musical theatre ensemble, has performed for them. The PTO brings them dinner, and sometimes parents bring cookies and cocoa to help keep them warm. Faculty members who opt out of staying on the roof sometimes bring hot snacks such as French fries to show support to their camping colleagues. A pulley system is rigged up to allow transport of items to the roof. Not only is it quick and convenient, it’s a practical way to keep the students from finding out how to access the roof.

Spending the entire night on the roof is a feat, but what is even more impressive is that the teachers get up the next morning and head back into the school where they shower, get around, and head back to their classrooms and teach. Before the school day officially begins, they eat a quick breakfast that is dropped off by grateful parents.

Despite its challenges, the rooftop adventure according to Pam Martzall brings a lot of good to the school community because it gives a memorable way to build respect between teachers and students. “Blending fun and academics is important,” she added.