Dover seniors return to elementary school
Wednesday was a senior walk for the graduating class in Dover, an idea that was brought to high school principal Jared Wastler by a friend in Ohio several years ago. Then, he said, a video was shared on Facebook of a senior walk that quickly grew popular among students. He was already looking into it when a group of seniors approached him.
"They said 'Please, please, please, can we do this?' and I can't tell kids no," he said, with a laugh.
In two short weeks, Wastler worked with Dover, Leib, North Salem and Weigelstown elementaries to set up the walk. Each senior went to the elementary school he or she had attended, and those who hadn't attended an elementary school in the district were given a choice.
Leib principal Troy Wiestling was immediately intrigued by the idea when Wastler approached him about it.
"It's an astounding experience for the graduates and the teachers," he said. "We want to show (the graduates) that they're still a part of our lives."
Most of the seniors had the same thing to say about the experience of walking through their old elementary school: It felt small.
"It's different," said graduating senior Jesse Gobrecht, who will be going into the automotive workforce after graduation. "I feel bigger than the building now."
Lindsay Copenheaver, a senior who will be studying to be a veterinarian tech at the YTI Career Institute in the fall, agreed.
"It's exciting. I don't remember being that little," she said. "I feel like we were just in fourth grade the other day. We're so old now."
After the walk, seniors spent time visiting with their former teachers and talking with the younger children. Bonnie Kline, a first-grade teacher at Leib who taught many of the graduates in second grade, placed photos of her old class on the wall for them to look at.
"I loved it; they were an excellent class that year," Kline said. "I would say that they should do their best, but they've been doing their best since second grade. I'm so proud of them."
One of her former students, Leon Zellers III, graced the class with a quick song after some prompting from his former teacher. Zellers is currently auditioning for NBC's "The Voice" and hopes to work with music in the future.
"It's like I was just here yesterday," he said. "It's like I came in here and teared up."
Nearly everyone agreed that it was an emotional day. Wastler joked that he "wasn't tearing up at all," while Wiestling had to take a second to gather himself before responding to questions.
"I can't believe how old they're getting," he said with tears in his eyes. "I don't think educators realize the impact they have on young people. We have the best job in the world. I hope we gave them the skills they need to succeed."