DESOTO — The Dallas Mavericks were able to help bring some sense of normalcy on Friday to a lot of students from Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy Elementary School in the DeSoto Independent School District.
That’s when the Mavs, in conjunction with Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics, held a Back-To-School Drive-Through Celebration that netted the students a T-shirt, coloring book, dental supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE). According to DeSoto ISD superintendent D’Andre Weaver, the goodwill gesture by the Mavs was just what the doctor ordered.
“It’s massive,” Weaver said. “Oh my God! To have an organization like the Dallas Mavericks be here to welcome and say hello to our parents, our students. . .I’ve got two girls in this system and they go to this school. They were so excited last night knowing that today was a big day.
“I think it helps to brings some energy, some excitement, a sense of normalcy to see people. This is a very special moment and I’m really appreciative of the organization for spending some time with us today.”
Katherine Johnson T.M.A. Elementary School principal Angela Batiste is also appreciative that some Mavs’ front office employees, Mavs Man and Champ took the time to show their school some love.
“Even with the Covid-19 with the pandemic, we’re just excited to be even thought of,” Batiste said. “It’s a way for the kids to see their teachers and for the teachers to see their kids.
“I think (the teachers are) a little more excited about the event than anything. It gets the kids out the house, back at the school, excited and pumped up.”
John Rhodes, the kindergarten lead teacher, was so excited that he and the Kinder Team put together a gift basket for the students in their class.
“We thought we wanted to give our kids something from us, again, to build the relationships,” Rhodes said. “Probably the biggest thing we can do with kids that age is to start building relationships, getting them to like school, getting them to want to be involved in school.
“It’s just a little token to say we appreciate them, we appreciate them coming out, we miss them, we want to see then again and we can’t wait until they’re back in school with us.”
Katherine Johnson T.M.A. Elementary School consists of 512 students in pre-kindergarten through the seventh grade. One of those students, five-year old Ian Thompson, had a grand time during the drive-through celebration.
“I have a popsicle and I saw the pony (Champ),” Thompson said. “I also got a lot of candy and some stickers, a T-shirt and a toothbrush.”
Thompson’s grandmother, Gayla Burton, also enjoyed her time at the drive-through celebration.
“I think it’s wonderful,” she said. “It’s good to see the school, it’s good to see other kids and it’s good to see the Mavericks with all of their gifts.”
Weaver was almost apologetic for acting like a kid in a candy store on Friday.
“I had more fun than my kids,” he said. “Personally, I’m a big basketball fan, so being out here and seeing the (Mavs’) mascot and feeling the energy is a good return to some normalcy for me, too. We all kind of thrive off of children and people.
“We’ve been isolated since March (because of the coronavirus pandemic), and now this feels like a bit more of the normalcy that we look to have in a school setting.”
Batiste acknowledged that Friday’s event was a rallying cry of sorts for DeSoto ISD. Last month DeSoto ISD suffered a fire which destroyed the school district’s PPE material in the school’s storage unit.
The Mavs promptly stepped forward and donated $27,000 worth of personal protective equipment to DeSoto ISD, which included face masks, hand sanitizers and face shields.
“They donated a lot of T-shirts, lots of fun activities, brought out the Mavericks, the mascot and everybody for fun, fun, fun for the kids,” Batiste said. “We’re just excited to be a part of this and Jefferson Dental, and we’re very thankful and grateful for that.
“This is not particularly a neighborhood school because we’re admission-based. So, we get kids from all over DeSoto, and that’s the beauty of it because we have all of DeSoto right here on one campus. School is always fun for us, so events like this just help brings everybody closer together.”
Rhodes certainly agrees.
“For me personally, this is the first chance that I’ve gotten to see some of the kids that come to our school,” he said. “We’ve had a lot of virtual contact, but to see then in person is just a different feeling.
“To me that’s special because I love the relationships you get with kids. It’s part of being a teacher – the relationship with kids and parents. The in-person experience brings a new level to what we’re doing here.”
And Rhodes was additionally ecstatic that the Mavs played a huge role in helping the teachers see their students for the first time in months. He believes it will have long-term positive ramifications.
“We saw a couple of (students) over the summer, but yeah it’s been six months,” Rhodes said. “Just re-connecting with some of them and then trying to tell who’s who with the mask and everything – that’s a little different. But just the re-connection is big.
“To have (the Mavericks) come out and just show support for the community and help us as teacher help build that relationship, it means the world. Kids may forget facts and certain things like that, but they’ll never forget relationships they build with their teachers.”
Meanwhile, Weaver said he’ll never forget Friday’s much-needed event, which included a lot of music that the Mavs piped in. He also said he was taken aback when he discovered the Mavs were coming to DeSoto to help out his school district.
“I was like, ‘Oh snap! When can I get there, and can they come to every single school and can they be here every day?,’ “ Weaver said. “I was really excited, it was really thoughtful. Out of all the districts and schools (in the Dallas/Fort Worth area), just to select us it means a lot to this community.
“They’ve got coloring books and T-shirts, they’ve got popsicles out here, and dancing to the music. It’s a great ambiance here and some activities that kids can do when they go home. It was a really good gesture from the Dallas Mavericks.”