Small Church Throws Big Party for Teachers & Staff
By Judie Holcomb-Pack
Like tossing a pebble in a pond, you never know how far the ripples will go and the affect it will have.
At Konnoak Hills United Methodist Church, that pebble was an idea tossed out by their former pastor, Randy Sherrill, to have a lunch in honor of the teachers at the elementary school in their neighborhood, Konnoak Elementary. He felt like teachers didn’t get enough recognition or thanks for their hard work. What better time to have a party than just before school started?
Pastor Sherrill felt that the church should be the center of the community and it should look out for all the members of their community. In 2005 they held their first teacher’s luncheon and invited the teachers, administrators and staff of Konnoak Elementary to come enjoy hot dogs and hamburgers. It was so successful that the next year they decided to invite the teachers and staff at Philo Middle School, but since their meeting space was small, they attended on a different day.
In 2008 a fellowship hall was built and for the first time both the teachers and staff at Konnoak Elementary and Philo-Hill Magnet Academy could come at the same time. The unexpected result was an opportunity for teachers to get to know each other and especially learn more about the students as they progressed from elementary to middle school.
Lisa Totten, a media assistant at Philo-Hill Magnet Academy, has attended the luncheon for several years and said, “It’s amazing the hospitality they (Konnoak Hills UMC) give us. They help us out at Christmas
as well. Whatever we ask for, they provide to help with our projects.”
Kendall Nelson from Philo-Hill said this is his third year attending and loves being a teacher. He remarked, “The biggest reason for me is that I’ve had a job where I made more money, but teaching kids is the most important
because I get the opportunity to pay it forward. I appreciate the church helping us to help the students. We’ve become a family here, and we’ve created a bond before the students arrive.”
Bobby Bryan has been the coordinator of the Welcome Back Teachers luncheon since the beginning. He and his crew of senior church members do everything from raise the money to cover the cost, to decorate the tables, to cook and serve the food, and clean up afterward. He said he begins working on this in November when he serves a luncheon at church, asking for donations to go toward the teachers’ luncheon and church members eagerly support it. Early on they decided to invite not just the teachers, but the administrative and support staff as well, including maintenance workers. Bobby said they are all important in creating a successful educational environment.
Sheila Barnette, the principal of Konnoak Elementary, said about 150 members of her “Team Konnoak” filled tables, including teachers, teaching assistants, support staff and a custodian. “This is the one time we can get two schools together to get to know each other and provide wrap-around support. It shows the value of all educators and how much the community supports them.”
The long-time grillmeisters are Larry Koontz and Billy Roberts. Wiping the sweat from his brow, Larry remarked, “I’ve been doing this for over ten years, and even though I weep from the smoke in my eyes, it is a blessing to do this. People have a blast!”
Taking off his dirty apron Billy chimed in, “And it’s good fellowship.”