Sometimes you never know about what you read on the internet, but this idea turned into something students, teachers and neighbors will remember for years to come.

Sandhill Elementary School held a parade around the school’s neighborhoods on Tuesday, May 5, featuring staff and some area first responders.

Last month, learning strategist Kelly Stewart talked to Sandhill principal Jeff Fimreite and Sandhill dean of students Emily Halverson about an idea she saw online about teacher parades during the COVID-19 pandemic, and wanted to give it a try, Fimreite said.

“(It) fell on teacher appreciation week, which was perfect timing,” Fimreite wrote the Hub in an email.

Halverson worked with the Stoughton Police Department for approval and to plan a route, with safety and social distancing as the top priority. Around 40 staff members decorated their vehicles and waved at students, families and residents as they slowly drove by, accompanied by first responders and fire trucks from the Stoughton Fire Department.

Fimreite said school officials encouraged families and staff to wear purple Sandhill and Stoughton gear and show school pride, which brought out a flood of creativity, with vehicles decorated with paint, balloons, streamers and signs. Students and families held signs of appreciation along the way, more than he could estimate.

“It brought tears to my eyes watching and hearing the students cheer as we drove by,” said Fimreite, who will be leaving the district next month to become a superintendent in northwest Wisconsin. “It was priceless to see the students and families after so long away from them.

“It was definitely the highlight of my semester.”

Fifth-grade teacher Chris Erickson said it was wonderful to be a part of the procession weaving its way through the streets of the Sandhill neighborhoods, seeing the residents, current and former students and their families.

“(It) was such a boost in spirit and a reminder of all the good things we are missing while we teach from a distance, and what we are excited to begin again as soon as this pandemic is over,” she wrote in an email to the Hub. “I want to thank the students and families who stood outside on a very cold and dreary day. It supplied a much needed boost and brought tears of happiness and smiles.”

Fifth-grader Will Kapanke, who will attend River Bluff Middle School this fall, said the parade felt very special because it’s the last time the fifth-graders will see their teachers while they’re still Sandhill students.

“It made me both sad and happy, because it was touching that they would do this for the students but it was sad because I would not see a lot of my teacher friends from Sandhill,” he wrote in an email to the Hub.

Will’s mom, Danielle said seeing all of the Sandhill folks in the teacher parade was special for the entire community, particularly the families of students.

“Not only was it great to see and say hi (from a distance) to everyone, but it was also so nice to be able to say thank you, even in a small way to all of the outstanding educators, support staff, administrators, and everyone in our district that has worked so very hard to continue to provide us with the support we need right now,” she emailed the Hub. “We realize the sacrifices that you have all made and it means the world to all of us that you continue to help throughout this community. Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Email Unified Newspaper Group reporter Scott De Laruelle at scott.delaruelle@wcinet.com.