Teachers take pie to face to raise money for mentoring program

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Six educators at Hamilton Crossing Elementary were willing to take a pie in the mug, all in the name of a worthy cause. 

Four teachers and two administrators ended up with a face full of whipped cream Friday afternoon to raise money for the school's mentoring program and to celebrate the new school year during the Back-to-School Smash 2018 in the old gym.

From Aug. 21 through Thursday, students bought paper cutouts of a pie for $1 each to vote for their favorite teachers, and the Top 5 vote-getters would each receive a plate of whipped cream hand-delivered to his or her face during the party.

"We decided to turn the event into a fundraiser to support our school mentoring program," said organizer Randi Burlison, who teaches second and third grade. "The teachers are very supportive of this fundraiser.  Each teacher at Hamilton Crossing is very passionate about their job as an educator and are willing to do anything to help the students, even take a pie in the face to make that happen."   

The party atmosphere of the gym was electric — music blared, teachers danced, kids screamed and clapped and the Cass Middle School cheerleaders performed — as the students and faculty eagerly awaited the announcement of the total amount raised and the names of the teachers who would be "creamed." 

"Ms. Burlison took it upon herself to put together this pie-in-the-face fundraiser to help us expand our mentoring program, and with your help and with our teachers' help and your parents' help and the community's support, we had a goal of $1,000," said emcee Kenny Courter, the computer literacy teacher. "We actually made $1,490. That's a whole, whole, whole lot of paper pies."    

Then Courter announced the Top 5 teachers, which actually turned into the Top 6 due to tie for fifth place: kindergarten teacher Mia Gilstrap, 246 pies; GATEWAY teacher Jen Colston, 220 pies; second-grade teacher Erin Pickens, 181 pies; second-grade teacher Natalie McPherson, 173 pies; and a tie between Principal Lynn Robertson and Assistant Principal Amy Goff, 136 pies.   

As teachers donned their protective gear and took their seats on the stage, Courter called the names of the August star students who had been randomly chosen to give their teachers a pie in the mug: Emma Brown, Silas Hastings, Kelly Morgan, Colt Fallin and Bell Harrison.

The sixth pie, meant for Robertson, was delivered by Superintendent Dr. Phillip Page.

As their classmates chanted "pie in the face," the students — and Page — one by one smashed the whipped-cream-filled plates into the educators' faces.

"I think it's wonderful," top vote-getter Gilstrap said afterwards. "I think the most important thing is that the money that we've raised is going to a really good program, to be perfectly honest. I think that the votes were out of love so that makes me feel good actually."

Asked if she knew she was getting a pie to the face, Robertson replied, "I did not."

"I was hoping that I was No. 6 and way below the list," she said. "It was OK. It was a little disconcerting that it was my boss putting it in my face. That was an added little thing, but it was fun, and it was all for a good cause."

And because the students surpassed the fundraising goal, Burlison had another surprise for Robertson and Goff.

Dressed in tutus and headbands, the two administrators had to perform a cheer that the CMS cheerleaders taught them.

"I had such worse things in mind so this was OK," Robertson said. "The 'not knowing' just built it up in my mind that I was thinking that it was really going to be — I didn't know what. So this is a good compromise, I guess.

"I told them there was a reason I was in the band and not a cheerleader. I'm not a cheerleader." 

Burlison was overwhelmed by the support the fundraiser received.

"It exceeded my expectations, amazing, amazing," she said. "I was really glad to see the central office [Page and Chief Academic Officer Dr. David Chiprany] came. They helped. All the kids were here. We even had parents come and show up to support this cause."

She added the school has done an event like this once before for Relay for Life, and "we decided to do it for something that we needed immediately right now, which is mentors."

The $1,490 will be used to provide training through Mentor Bartow for 29 new mentors to help students on all grade levels who need a little extra attention, Burlison said.  

"People in our community, including Mentor Bartow, work diligently to raise money to pay for the process of becoming a mentor," she said. "We have found that the financial obligation to become a mentor can be a hindrance for some that may be interested. The process includes a class, fingerprinting and a background check, which costs approximately $50 per mentor. The money from this fundraiser will go directly to offset the costs for mentors dedicated to students at Hamilton Crossing."

The school has different type of mentoring opportunities for members of the community, including small-group and whole-class mentoring, but "this fundraiser will be focused on the individual student mentoring program," Burlison said.

Individual mentoring is "important to me due to my own personal experience as a graduate of Cass High School," the educator said.

"During my senior year, I was part of a mentoring program for people who were interested in becoming teachers," she said. "In 2000, I mentored a student in a classroom at Hamilton Crossing. This led my desire for teaching children and becoming involved and influential in the lives of children."

Over the past two years, it has been "extremely important" to Burlison to "beef up our mentoring program" at HCES, she said.

"Last year, Mrs. Robertson, Mrs. Goff and I created a special-areas rotation that allowed special-areas teachers time to mentor students throughout the day," she said. "Other teachers throughout the building also volunteered their planning time to mentor students once a week. We were able to mentor 26 students throughout the building. However, there are many other children in our building that would benefit from having an individual mentor." 

Students are recommended by their teacher or HCES counselor Brandy Nicholson and must have parent permission, and so far, 35 kids have been identified as needing a mentor this year, she said.

"I'm hoping to gather mentors through the month of September so that we can be completely going by Oct. 1," she said. 

Burlison said the school already has some mentors but needs more. To volunteer, call the school at 770-606-5849 and ask for Burlison or Nicholson or contact Mentor Bartow at 470-315-0717 or mentorforbartow@gmail.com.