After 140 days with her favorite Poplar Springs Elementary School first graders, Allison Anderson’s school year came to a screeching halt in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Anderson, 24, said she never dreamed when she left for spring break, she would not return to her classroom to teach her “babies” this school year.
“At first, I had hope that we would return, but when I learned the school closure was final, I couldn’t believe it,” Anderson said.
Returning to clean her classroom and collect student backpacks for parents was a somber day for her.
Alicia Thomas described how devastated her son was when he heard he would not be returning to Anderson’s classroom: “JaMarri literally cried. He had enjoyed the virtual activities where he could see his classmates without risk, but he couldn’t believe he would not return to see his friends in person.”
Soon, Anderson began to feel she could do more to help the children she so missed. She knew that many parents were essential workers who depend on the school to supervise their children during their working hours. With no school in session, she decided to take matters into her own hands. If she couldn’t be in her own classroom, she could still make a difference, impacting the lives of parents, students and the community at large who, in turn, depend on healthcare providers and their workers to be at their jobs.
“I have been babysitting since I was old enough to do so, and I love children," Anderson said. "I knew I needed to combine my love with a desire to help those parents who are essential workers.”
One parent, McCall Ballor, said, “She was a God-send for me and my son Alex.”
Jenna Thomas agreed, “If (Anderson) had not been available to watch my son, there would have been days I probably would not have been able to work.”
Anderson said her days of babysitting were filled with activity. Their days would begin with breakfast and school work, then they would move to an outdoor picnic for lunch.
“Remember, this was during a time when the Bonita playground was closed to the public. When the park reopened, we would play tag, feed the ducks, or hop in a blow-up kayak,” she said. “We would end the day with some ice cream, a Popsicle, or a snow cone.”
Jade Williams-Moore said Anderson’s assistance with schoolwork was invaluable to her and her family.
“(Anderson’s) warm heart and generosity during this pandemic has made her more like family over the course of two months,” Williams-Moore said.
Anderson said was never worried about her safety. She knew her kids’ parents were essential workers, and they would be cautious about following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.
“Most parents would go home first to shower and change clothes before coming to pick up their children,” Anderson said.
Ashley Dunn, a healthcare worker, described how Anderson impacted her family.
“Allison helped us in a desperate time of need," Dunn said. "Elle absolutely loved every minute of her time. She was so fun and creative.”
When daycares began to reopen, Anderson said her babysitting gig slowed a bit. She was soon hired by AT&T to fill some free time.
“I have always had a strong work ethic," Anderson said. "My parents instilled that in me at an early age. I have always had a job, and I knew I could work full time until the start of the new school year.”
With the thought of the start of the 2020-21 school year, Anderson said she is excited to return to her classroom in the fall and a new group of first graders.
“This life is not for me," Anderson said. "I am ready to get back to my classroom and my students.”