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McKenzie holds Family Day for retired faculty, staff

McKenzie School blurred the distinction between faculty and family last Wednesday during its inaugural McKenzie Family Day for retired and former faculty and staff.

Scores of former educators returned to the hallowed halls of McKenzie to not only see how the school had changed in recent years, but also catch up with one another.

McKenzie principal Miles Brown said that it was the latter scenario that proved a wonderful unintended consequence.

“Our goal here was to make sure these people know how much we appreciate everything that they have ever done for us, and that we would not have our jobs if it wasn’t for them,” Brown said.

“Lo and behold, it ended up being like a class reunion, because a lot of these people had not seen each other since they retired.  They’d all gone their separate ways, and here they come back… and it was just wonderful how much they had a chance to see how the school had changed, but also had time to spend with one another.

“It was unreal—they were hugging necks, tears were being shed… it was awesome.”

Though Brown conceived the idea—which, in his own words, means he borrowed it from another institution—he attributed the success of the event to Haden Horton, McKenzie’s counselor, and Lisa Hatch, the school’s assistant principal, who “made everything happen.”

Though according to Brown, Horton and Hatch, the students bore the brunt of the weight as McKenzie’s senior student ambassadors greeted the retirees at the front of the school upon their arrival, helped them to the school and led tours around the campus that highlighted the many improvements made to the building in recent decades.

William Brown, Chris Shufford and Olivia Sexton, seniors at McKenzie and ambassadors during the Family Day event, all said they were surprised at how talkative and excited the former faculty and staff members were as they retread old ground, visiting their former classrooms and other buildings that were integral parts of their lives.

“You could almost feel all of the nostalgia they were experiencing,” Brown said. “We couldn’t even keep them focused on the tour, because they were all talking to each other and having a good time.  And that’s what the day is for, anyway.

“It’s also cool to see how far we’ve come.  We’re moving up, so it’s really cool for us to let them see that we’re still holding up the legacy of being great here at McKenzie.”

“They were just glad to see each other,” Shufford added. “And they kept telling us how much better we have it as students now.”

“It was really interesting to see each of the teachers go into their old classrooms and talk about how different it was, and how different the teachers are now,” Sexton said.

Sexton added that the Family Day afforded her a chance to catch up with one of the most important figures in her scholastic career, former agriculture teacher Donnie Goneke.

“I was really excited to see our old ag teacher,” she said.

“I’m going to college to become an ag teacher, and he’s part of the reason why.”

While on tours, retirees got to experience firsthand how technology has shaped the classroom in new and inventive ways that are a far cry from the more traditional methods of previous decades.

In one instance, the former teachers witnessed students interacting with Kahoot!, a game-based learning platform that allows students to participate instantly in interactive quizzes via their smartphone or tablet devices.

After touring the school grounds, the football field, the new playground and library/computer labs, retirees were treated to a lunch courtesy of the McKenzie Methodist Church’s Methodist Women’s League.

Brown said that involving the entire community of McKenzie, in addition to the school, was a purposeful decision.

“We definitely want to thank the Methodist Women’s League,” Brown added. “We appreciate everything that they did.

“We’re kind of thinking of doing this every five years, like a class reunion type of thing.  I thought it would be a great idea, but it turned out better than what I had in my mind.  It turned out so much better.”