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Gowanda stays positive in a trying time

A family on Palmer Street in Gowanda used chalk to create this message after seeing Gowanda Middle School’s video. Submitted Photo.

GOWANDA — According to superstition, Friday the 13th is a rather unlucky day, and it certainly was for those Gowanda Middle School students who were disappointed to learn it would be their last day for possibly quite some time.

Gowanda Middle School Principal Todd Miklas said, “While some students were a little excited about having ‘snow days’ coming up, most were sad, and there was an eerie grim feeling of uncertainty.” The following Monday, Miklas arrived at school with a plan to turn this sad news into a meaningful message of hope for students that has reached 3,700 views and counting!

“I knew we needed to do something far beyond just preparing take-home work and printing assignments,” Miklas told the OBSERVER. “It was then that I called our very talented and upbeat school resource officer and said, ‘Ben, I’ve got an idea and need your help.'”

Miklas explained that Officer Ben Shields’ talents extend beyond his work as a police officer and include use of high-end drones and digital technology. “We decided that when I met with teacher teams throughout Monday (March 16) … I would make the number-one priority a poster sign with a personal message of hope or sensibility,” said Miklas. “We asked that each teacher compose a sign and be prepared to join us at the front of the school prior to leaving for the day at 2 p.m.”

Using his recording technology and a drone, Shields recorded all teachers and staff, who were spaced six feet apart, in front of the school with their signs “to inspire some hope for days to come.”

Gowanda School Resource Officer Ben Shields operated a drone to record a video of Gowanda Middle School Principal Todd Miklas, center, and his staff sharing uplifting signs with students. Submitted Photo.

The video is set to Bob Marley’s optimistic “Three Little Birds,” which features lyrics that say, “Don’t worry about a thing, ’cause every little thing gonna be alright.” Shields posted the video on YouTube and March 17, the school district shared it with families via Facebook and Twitter.

Throughout the video, teachers and staff share signs with messages such as, “Stay active! Stay healthy! See you soon!”, “We miss you!”, “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop,” “Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are!” and “Stay Positive! Keep reading!”

Other important messages flash across the screen, including hand washing tips and reminders to stay active, listen to experts’ advice on COVID-19, laugh and have fun. The video begins and ends with Miklas waving to students and giving them a “thumbs up.”

Since last Tuesday, the video has been viewed more than 3,700 times. Miklas and other faculty and staff have continued the momentum of hope and encouragement.

On Friday, support staff decided to make 1,400 copies of the poster designed by teacher assistant Kathy Myzel featuring the lyrics of “Three Little Birds.” Miklas explained, “Posters were rolled and tied in Gowanda blue and white ribbons to be sent home to each and every student in the district as a message of hope. Also, one family took to furthering the message with sidewalk chalk on a fence on Palmer Street; very cool!” The fence reads “Everything’s Gonna be Alright!!”

Gowanda Middle School staff made 1,400 copies of the “Three Little Birds” poster drawn by teacher assistant Kathy Myzel, pictured here. Posters were rolled, tied and sent to every student in the district as a message of hope. Submitted Photo.

Not only has the YouTube video been shared with Gowanda families, but a clip was also featured in the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) union’s YouTube video “NYSUT Members are Meeting Critical Needs in a Time of Crisis,” posted on Thursday. The two-minute video shows how educators across the state are maintaining personal connections with students despite the closure of schools.

“We as educators got into this business not to be sure students were drilled with math problems or to challenge them with complex essay writing skills, but for reasons far beyond curriculum,” Miklas told the OBSERVER. “Ben and I share in this philosophy, that we as educators, coaches, community members, mentors, or anyone who interacts with children, our number-one job is to prepare them for their lives; to prepare them to do great things; to be awesome humans; and dream beyond whatever might limit them now.”

Miklas expressed his gratitude to Shields and district technology integrators Ed Bugenhagen and Kelley Ivett who assisted in the creation of the video. To view the video entitled “March 17, 2020” visit https://youtu.be/aLD-hcl8ZZY.

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