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One of the hardest secrets to keep

PALs surprise teachers and show their appreciation

October 25, 2018

Photo by: Preston Rolls                                                                                                                                                 FULL OF JOY: Math teacher Kelly Flickenger makes her way down the aisle of Bowie PALs students as she enters the secret PALs reveal party. The PALs lined up and waited for their teachers to come in so they could surprise them. “It’s one of the things that the PALs do which teachers truly appreciate,” Flickenger said. “I like this idea that Garcia does and it really lets his kids get creative with different ways of thanking their teachers.”

Photo by: Preston Rolls
MATERIALS SCATTERED: Finishing her cards, Senior Kaitlin Rush writes her last letter to her secret pal, Kim Gilbert. Each student was assigned about seven to nine different teachers to write to.“It takes me about an hour to make all my letters because I decorate them to be really colorful,” Rush said. “I love adding all these different stickers and such to the cards.”

Teachers do more than just grade papers: they sponsor clubs, assist with student struggles, and overall foster growth on campus. Since they’ve dedicated their lives to helping students, the Bowie Peer Assistant and Leadership (PALs)  Club annually celebrate teachers through “Secret PALs.” Club members write letters and even buy gifts for every teacher and administrator.

“The whole Secret PALs event started the first year there was a group in 1988, and we do it so the Pal Students can give back to the teachers,” PALs advisor Alejandro Garcia said. “Teaching can be such an under appreciated job, so my goal is for students to show their appreciation for them.

To ensure no teacher, administrator, or staff member is left out, each student is given between seven and nine teachers for whom they write cards, make posters, or even give gifts.

“It’s my goal to make sure every teacher is assigned a Secret Pal,” Garcia said. “There are some teachers here that receive daily praise from students, so it’s good to give thanks to those who don’t always get it.”

The act of writing letters, decorating cards or giving gifts can be tedious since some students have never met their assigned teachers. So Secret PALs appreciate when teachers write back; it forms a bond neither of them will forget.

“One of my favorite aspects of secret PALs is writing to staff members that I haven’t met, and some that I haven’t even heard of,” senior Pal Natalie Aman said. “I’ve heard back from some teachers that I don’t know and it’s been fun for me getting to know things that we have in common.”

The act of keeping the secret can be hard. Some students are paired with teachers they currently have, so keeping everything secret until the party has been a struggle for some.

Photo by: Preston Rolls
DELIVERY TIME: Senior Natalie Aman gathers her letters for her secret PALs and puts them in the teachers boxes for them to pick up. This was the third and last week of delivering notes the teachers. “Delivering the cards is so fun because we get to write fun letters and it allows us to be creative,” Aman said. “It’s nice to give back to my teachers.”

Photo by: Preston Rolls 
   ARMS FULL: Senior Pal Cade Blagdan hugs his secret pal Science teacher Erin Tilton. For some PALs, this was the first time they have ever met their assigned teacher. “Meeting my teachers and talking to them was the best part,” Blagdan said. “All my teachers were so sweet and talking to them really brought tears to my eye.”

“It has been especially difficult for me to keep two of my teacher’s secret,” Aman said. “I have one of them currently, so every time I go to their class I have to do my best not to say the little phrases or things I wrote in my letters.”

As teachers check their box for letters, they begin to write back and forth between them and their secret PALs, forming bonds

“It’s is like a ray of sunshine going to my teacher mailbox in the morning to find something complimentary and sweet,” English teacher Kimberly Wiedmeyer. “When I initially got my first letter I was excited because this student knew me, so writing back to them was nice to see how well they actually knew me.” as to get my PALs to understand the value and power of saying thank you,” Garcia

said. “These students put a lot of work into their letters and afterward I’ve had teachers email me showing their thanks gratitude towards their secret PALs.”

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