It was an emotional moment as 40 cars drove into the Maplebrook Elementary School parking lot.

No, it wasn’t the world-famous “mommy line” of SUVs that traditionally threads its way through the streets into Humble ISD’s elementary schools. The coronavirus and the need for social distancing have taken care of the “mommy line,” at least for a few months.

These cars were filled with Maplebrook teachers and staff who hadn’t seen each other since school was canceled.

“It was a very emotional afternoon, really, startling to all of us the moment we drove in,” recalled Maplebrook Principal Tiffany Caseltine. “We all stayed in our cars, of course, but the moment was, well, overwhelming. We couldn’t high-five each other. We couldn’t give each other hugs. This is our new normal and we all knew we were about to do something special.”

What the Maplebrook staff was about to do on that March 23 evening was form a caravan and visit the students they hadn’t seen in weeks.

“Our school librarian and a third-grade teacher had emailed me separately one Sunday about a week after we’d been out,” Caseltine said. “Both wanted to go see their students. Get their addresses and drive out to their homes, honk and wave.”

A native Houstonian, Caseltine is a University of Houston undergraduate with a master’s degree in counseling from Sam Houston State University. She was an elementary school teacher and then a counselor before earning her certification to become a principal.

As a school counselor, mom to a blended family of a 15-year-old, two 16-year-olds and an 18-year-old, and taking online classes, Caseltine knows all about being flexible, prioritizing her day and navigating the unknown.

“I’ve chosen to lead with a lot of heart and common sense,” she said. 

Maplebrook Elementary can be found on Farmingham Road, south of FM 1960 and east of West Lake Houston Parkway in Atascocita. The school houses 700 students, pre-K through 5th grade, mostly from Walden.

When other Maplebrook teachers began texting about doing the same thing, Caseltine thought to herself, “Wow! It’s taking off. It’s something we need to do.”

Families waited in their yards to show support and see their teachers pass by.

Being the teachers that they are, Caseltine texted her staff, then created a plan, mapping out a route and contacting the student families.

“We wanted to maximize our facetime with our kids, see as many of our families as possible,” she said.

They decorated their cars with signs and decorations from home and met in the Maplebrook parking lot.

“We were overwhelmed by the response from the staff. There were lots of tears of joy,” Caseltine said.

And then the caravan began, 40 cars strong, following their carefully mapped-out route.

“The turnout was just unbelievable,” Caseltine said. “Our kids were in front of their homes, on the corners, inside their cars, chanting, waving, showing off the posters they made. We created some cherished memories and the caravan really set a positive tone for this era that we’re living through. Even though we’re separate in our own homes, we all recognized that we’re really one. None of us will ever forget that moment. It was a lovable moment.”

Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat proved that point, filled with grateful messages from students and their families, and lots and lots of photos and videos.

“It wasn’t really a novel idea,” Caseltine said. “Several other campuses have had similar caravans. We just happened to be one of the first.”

While the caravan was unique, Caseltine believes it’s just another way that she and her teachers fulfill their community role.

“Our relationship with our kids is key,” she said. “It surpasses anything we probably could teach. We all believe that relationships are important. The caravan was just a small example on a grand scale of what we do every day.”

Keep up to date with all Humble ISD activities at humbleisd.net .

Tom Broad
Author: Tom BroadEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Columnist
Besides being a proud graduate of The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and, therefore, a Cornhusker, I am retired from Memorial Hermann. I am a correspondent and columnist for Lake Houston's hometown paper, The Tribune, as well as a director of the Lake Houston Redevelopment Corporation, a member of the board of the Humble Area Assistance Ministries, and Volunteer Extraordinaire for the Lake Houston Area Chamber.

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