CLARENDON HILLS – The music started as a stampede of fifth graders swarmed down the grass hill at Walker School ready to give three retiring teachers a departure fit for royalty.
“Everybody all together, all together, let’s have some fun,” made up the first verse of the song blasted during a flash mob May 31 to surprise Cindy Michaelis, Lynn Kastholm and Sheila Chatham, who will retire this year from District 181.
And what better lyrics to echo the dance as eventually all grades joined in at the conclusion of Walker School’s Field Day, an end-of-the-year celebration for the school.
“The whole thing is we’re all in this together,” said Melissa Marshall, a physical education teacher at Walker who planned the Field Day events. “We’re a family together and we’re kind of saluting our family leaving.”
Better yet was that none of the retiring teachers were expecting it as they sat together in the foreground of the field, eying with amazement as the students coordinated a dance they learned during their general music and P.E. classes and in their free time.
“I’m a bad crier,” said Kastholm, who will retire as a fifth grade teacher after 15 years at District 181. “How wonderful and truly touching.”
After the flash mob, the three teachers were attacked by a flurry of hugs from the students who wanted to say goodbye.
Michaelis, a differentiation specialist who is retiring after 20 years in the district, said she was shocked by the performance and support.
“I had no idea,” Michaelis said. “They did all this without us knowing a thing. That was wonderful. What could be better than having little kids do that for you?”
Meanwhile, Chatham was surrounded by her fourth graders, who spent the rest of Field Day expressing their thanks to her. It was these kids, and the camaraderie with the staff, that she said she’ll miss the most.
“The children are so sweet and when they’re coming into fourth grade, they’re so excited to meet their teacher,” said Chatham, who is celebrating 16 years in the district. “Their enthusiasm is contagious.”
Chatham told her students that she wished they could’ve seen the performance from where she was sitting because of how amazing it looked.
“She’s awesome,” said 9-year-old Maria Rivera, a fourth-grader from Clarendon Hills. “She’s probably the nicest teacher ever.”
While the flash mob was a tribute to the teachers, the rest of Field Day was a celebration for everyone. Marshall said there were 12 stations for the kids to team up with to accomplish tasks. Some of these included the sponge pass and a tire-rolling relay.
“All the stations are meant – because the theme is ‘we’re all in this together’ – to really support community and the kids have to work together,” Marshall said.
After all, it’s the kids who the three teachers said they will miss the most.
“It’s been a great ride for all these 20 years and this is why you do it,” Michaelis said. “Because of these great kids.”