Debbie Carlson is a first grade teacher at McHarg Elementary School in Radford who has been teaching for 35 years — 20 in Montgomery County and 15 in Radford City. Two years ago, she said she ended the school year feeling like she didn’t get to know the parents of her students because their only interaction was during parent conferences or at Open House.
At the beginning of the 2012 school year, Carlson wanted to find a way to remedy this, so in order to help build a sense of community with her first grade classroom, she organized a tailgate party for the first home RHS football game last fall. “I had Coach Saunders’ daughter in my class so that was the inspiration for the tailgate,” said Carlson. She said they had a great turnout and it established great rapport between her and her students’ parents.
Carlson said she and her class had a fantastic school year, and felt it was due to all the parent involvement she had throughout the year. “My daughter, Lindsey Carlson Day, after 6 years of teaching upper grades, is teaching first grade for the first time at Critzer Elementary in Pulaski County. With Radford and Pulaski scheduled to play the first home game at RHS, I had begun planning another tailgate to kick-off this school year,” said Carlson. “During the night, when teachers’ brains are full of ‘what ifs’ and ‘how tos’ it occurred to me that it would be a lot of fun to do a tailgate with Lindsey’s class. I couldn’t wait to call her about it.”
Carlson said Day was excited, too, so they put the plan into action. They contacted the cheerleaders, made banners, and taught their kids a common cheer to perform together at the tailgate. “After the tailgate we plan to write class letters to each other and then individual pen pal letters later in the year,” said Carlson. “We hope this will be a great experience for both our classes.”