December 14, 2022
by Sam Walker
Not even a mile down Queen Street sits Moore Magnet Elementary School. The school has been designated a magnet school since 1971. Today, it’s a Title I school focusing on STEAM. The school’s proximity to the church created a natural place to build a missional partnership, and a closer look indicated a necessity to meet the needs of the students, faculty, and staff.
The Reading Buddies program started with church members volunteering an hour a week to sit and read to students. The program became more significant when the 2020 COVID pandemic forced schools to transition to remote learning. The needs of the students had not changed, but there no longer was the in-person environment where students build relationships and learn best. Learning resources were also at school and not in students’ hands. Ardmore Baptist coordinated an effort with the Moore administration to create over 600 “maker boxes” filled with tactile objects students could use for virtual lessons in math, science, and reading. Reading Buddies started recording their read-alouds on video and making the recordings available to teachers and students so teachers could break up the instructional day and provide students with a friendly face telling an engaging story.
“Having taught kindergarten, I naturally partnered with a kindergarten class,” Ardmore member Sarah Griffhagen said. “The teacher I was paired with had been an assistant and had just completed her certification, and this was her first classroom. I wasn’t sure how this was supposed to be missions because I had always thought of missions as putting it out there, making sure people knew about Jesus. I had to rethink that. Last year, we had a student whose mother died, and I went to the funeral and sat and supported the teacher. Being there let her know it was more than just me checking in and checking out for my time.”
The kids call Griffenhagen “Mrs. G,” and there have been many opportunities for her to support teachers facing life’s challenges, students who know little English and are adapting to a new culture, and help Ardmore Baptist provide appreciation luncheons to the faculty and staff. “I feel like we are more than just people who drop off food for teacher appreciation luncheons, go in and do their thing, but feel like we are connecting with the people, whatever they need in the classroom. We are the hands and feet of Jesus at that time.”
Each year during Advent, Ardmore Baptist raises a Moore Angel Tree. Moore’s school social worker identifies students and families in need and provides details (not names) of students, their ages, clothing sizes, etc. Church members pick an ornament off the tree in the church lobby and provide for the needs of the student it represents by purchasing the listed items and delivering them to the church by the deadline. Teachers also have created wish lists for simple pleasures for themselves and classroom supplies they might otherwise have to purchase.
The Ardmore Baptist, Moore Elementary Reading Buddies program has approximately 25 people now involved in the Moore Reading Buddies program. However, there are still a few classrooms that still need a Reading Buddy across different grade levels. To get involved, contact our Minister of Missional Engagement Rev. Amy Gallaher, at email@example.com.