Block party welcomes students, parents to JMSAugust 14, 2019
By ALLEN LAMAN
JASPER — Oliver Helming locked on his target, wound up and unloaded a heater.
The softball he tossed pinged against a metal plate. Before a grin could stretch across the seventh-grader’s face, Bob Stenftenagel fell through a trap door and was instantly dunked in a tub of water — by one of his own students.
It felt “amazing,” Oliver crooned, drawing out his syllables as he relished in his victory. He never thought he’d get to knock down his math teacher.
“But man, did it feel great,” Oliver blurted, still bouncing with emotion. “So good.”
That exchange was made possible Tuesday night by the first-ever Back 2 School Block Party at Jasper Middle School. It was an event designed to turn the traditionally groan-worthy parent-teacher introduction model on its head. Attractions like inflatable slides, giant Jenga, cornhole and more were all set up on the school’s soccer field to pull in families for a night of greetings and amusement.
“I’m always gung-ho, anything to help the kids and get them involved and get the parents involved,” said Brent Seibert, a JMS math teacher and one of the gathering’s spearheaders. “They come out here, they see teachers, but they don’t see them as teachers. They see them as human beings. And that’s not something we get seen as very often.”
Seifert, now in his second year at JMS, brought the energetic block party idea to Jasper from Princeton Middle School, where he worked for about two decades.
Back when Meet the Teacher Night was held in the nearby classrooms, Seibert estimated about a third of parents attended. Tuesday, he figured more than 1,000 people showed up, solidifying the success of a new spin on kicking off a new year.
Whether they volunteered at one of the activity stations or were stationed in other areas, parents used a map to find teachers and strike up conversations during a two-hour period.
The occasion felt more like making new friends at a late-summer carnival than impersonally smiling and shaking hands at a convention. Moms and dads approved.
“It’s a great, I think, community, family event for everybody,” said Amy Knies, whose son, Isaiah, is in seventh grade at JMS. She actually left last year’s teacher introduction night partway through because she couldn’t find her way around the building.
“So, this is much better,” she said of the block party. “It’s a much more relaxed atmosphere for everybody.”
Tuesday night’s get-together concluded with a pick-a-prize raffle drawing that featured tickets to Disney World, Holiday World, Kings Island, a Cardinals-Reds baseball game, gift cards to local businesses and more.
After seeing how excited and happy the shindig made the students, Seibert and fellow leader Courtney Heberer aim to make the school’s kickoff bash an annual affair.
“They got excited because it’s something new,” Seibert said. “It’s unique. It’s different. And they can just come out and have some fun.”
Seventh-grader Ella Werner and her best friend, Rilyn Bouillon, had been thinking about and planning for the event for a week before it took place.
“This thing, the first year they’re having it, they’re doing a really good job,” Ella said. “And I think how hard they worked. They really accomplished something.”
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