When Farallone View Elementary School teacher Linda Herbert won Half Moon Bay Patch’s Teacher Appreciation Contest in early October, she received as a prize not only recognition from people in her school community, but also volunteer hours by a Patch editor.
After some phone calls back and forth, Herbert invited me to help in her kindergarten/1st grade classroom on Continent Day, an annual event where the entire school visits another part of the world without having to get on an airplane.
This year, the school traveled to Asia, one continent I've never been to before so I was excited for the experience.
Herbert’s classroom was delightfully transformed into a Japanese teahouse built and painted by students and parent volunteers Christa Myers-Barker and Sarah Bunkin. Children moved from one activity to another painting Gyotaku fish prints, eating rice, udon noodles and seaweed with chopsticks, planting bonsai trees, and making Japanese headbands called hachimaki.
The classroom was very lively and animated with the chaos that comes from excited children free to explore something new. Upon meeting, Herbert immediately directed me to the bonsai table where children from Kindergarten through 5th grade visiting the classroom were to decorate the soil around their planted bonsai trees with pebbles, shells, stones, tile, and plastic toys. It was my job to supervise this table. After they were done, each student pulled their “passport” out of a brown paper bag and stamped it, documenting their visit. It was such a creative, darling and fun project to help out with.
One hundred bonsai trees later, I had a little time left to visit the other classrooms, and I’m glad I did since I've never been to Asia before. From China, Thailand, and Pakistan to Russia, India and the Philippines, every classroom at the school was decorated to the hilt and featured projects and food related to the people, culture, art, history, geography, and natural history of Asia.
I came to learn that Continent Day at Farrallone View wasn’t always so elaborate. When Herbert came to Farallone View about 20 years ago, she said, she first started hosting a simpler version of Continent Day in her classroom.
“I would put a movie on and have activities for the kids and pretend for the day that we were in another country,” said Herbert.
Since then the concept has expanded and includes all grades as well as the support of school staff and parent volunteers.
“I have so many wonderful parents who do so much here,” she said. “It’s because of them that this day is always so remarkable.”
Herbert, who has been teaching in the Cabrillo Unified School District for 30 years, started her first few years of teaching at Hatch Elementary School. When she came to Farallone View she found her niche teaching kindergarten and 1st grade.
She moves about her classroom with an ease and level of patience that only an experienced teacher with a tolerance and love for children can master. She’s smiley and pleasant, the kind of warm and fuzzy kindergarten teacher that makes you want to sit in circle time and be in kindergarten all over again.
With paint drips on the classroom floor and her hands covered in soil, helping children plant their bonsai trees into plastic containers to take home, Herbert lets the mess fall to the wayside in the moment of teaching her students.
“These are Norway spruce bonsai trees,” she joyfully tells the students. “Make sure you cover the roots with enough soil, and don’t forget to water them as soon as you get home.”
You can see that she goes beyond the four walls of the classroom to give her students hands-on experience with the outside world.
“She is a dedicated teacher,” said parent volunteer Myers-Barker, as she serves udon noodles on a plate to some students. “Both my kids are lucky enough to have her as their teacher.”
I feel lucky, too, that I was able to experience Herbert’s classroom on Continent Day and volunteer for such a competent and joyful teacher such as her. It’s no wonder she won Patch’s Teacher Appreciation Contest!