Moore Teachers Excited to Welcome Students Back to School

For teachers, principals and school administrators, the last three months since the May tornadoes tore through Moore have been spent trying to restore some semblance of normalcy to the school experience heading into this fall.

On Tuesday, just days before the school year begins, teachers from the three Moore schools that were most severely damaged – Briarwood Elementary, Plaza Towers Elementary and Highland East Junior High – came together for a luncheon sponsored by, with additional support from the Thunder and other organizations. The welcome back lunch and gift presentation was held at Emmaus Baptist Church, where Briarwood Elementary will hold classes this year.

“The event today was a culmination of a huge fundraising effort across the country to raise money to give to the teachers who lost everything in the tornadoes in May,” Bob Thacker, executive director of explained. “We wanted to make sure that the kids got back to a normal experience in the classroom. That’s a sure sign that things are turning for the better.”

“These teachers build those classrooms and they build them with their own hands in many ways,” Thacker continued. “They supply so many things themselves. We wanted to make sure they had the materials they needed to do what they do best.”

The chance for all of the teachers who were directly affected by the storms to come together and enjoy one another's company in a fun environment was one everyone seemed to relish. There will be plenty of comfort and support for the students once they return to school in the coming days, but it is equally essential for the teachers to feel comfortable and be confident in their new surroundings as the school year begins.

“It’s very important because they went through the trauma along with the students,” Briarwood Elementary Principal Shelley Jacques-McMillan said. “The students are going to look to them for reassurance and that strength that they’re going to need when it’s cloudy or rainy or there are loud noises.”

Tuesday’s event was all about the teachers being together, celebrating the start of the new year and putting the final touches on preparations to their classrooms before the students begin. The Thunder as an organization wanted to find a way to show the schools that it supports them, which is why each teacher received a Thunder-branded “Moore Strong” t-shirt in addition to a $100 gift card to Target to help them re-decorate and re-supply their classrooms.

Janice Brim, a teacher at Plaza Towers Elementary said that before the storm she had a “Thunder Corner” featuring a large picture of herself with Kevin Durant when she met the Thunder All-Star at the Children’s Hospital in Oklahoma City. Brim’s nephew was recovering from a surgery last winter when Head Coach Scott Brooks, Durant, Russell Westbrook and other players made a visit to brighten the days of those in the hospital. Brim said that she will use the Target gift card to re-create the “Thunder Corner” that was lost.

“That’s where our enthusiasm (comes from) towards testing and when things get hard, we pursue on,” Brim said. “We may not rise to the top every year, but we put the effort into it. We’re more proud and we’re also Thunder proud… It’s because of the outreach of the Thunder team and how they really reach for the kids.”

“We’re all Thunder fans,” Amy Simpson, Plaza Towers’ Principal explained. “For them to turn around and support us as much as we support and love them, it means the world to us. It’s so heartwarming and it’s a good relief. It’s a nice relief to know that somebody else is out there rooting for us.”

There is still plenty of healing to be done in Moore and other Oklahoma communities and Tuesday’s event is just a start as children begin to return to school. As a result, the Thunder will continue to be active in finding ways to assist the teachers and administrators, with additional events planned in the coming days. The Thunder is committed to the Oklahoma City community, particularly its future generations, which is why the organization wants to aid the schools, their teachers and their students with their primary goal for this school year.

“(We want students to be) comfortable with school again,” Simpson said. “When we left May 20th, that changed their perspective of school. I hope that with all of the things that have been given to us and we’ve been able to accomplish over the summer and these short two weeks to ready ourselves for them that they can find comfort in us again.”