Festival honors school’s diversity

Bagpipe music drifted down the hallway as I entered Valley Intermediate School.

In the cafeteria, VIS students and guests were enjoying the bagpipe tunes of two kilt-clad, burly Scots. This was the scene recently as Valley Intermediate hosted its second annual International Bread Festival.

“Our fabulous English Language Learners department came up with the idea last year as a way to celebrate our diversity,” said Counselor Janey Patty. “It was such a hit that we decided to make the Bread Festival an annual event.”

Following the bagpipers’ performance was a Mexican dance performed by a pair of brothers partnered with a pair of sisters.

After the performances, students returned to their classrooms to sample bread from and see presentations on the country their class was representing.

Each class chose a country that included ties to a class member. The students visited other classrooms learning about all of the countries represented on their grade level. More than 280 parents and guests attended Valley Intermediate’s Bread Festival and an additional 100 parents sent food and other items.

Third–grade teacher Holly Stevens served on the festival’s planning committee.

“Because of our constantly growing diversity here, it’s important to celebrate and learn about the other cultures represented,” Stevens said.

Stevens was delighted to hear some of her third-graders’ remarks about the event. One third-grader said, “I didn’t know that Tim Tebow was from the Philippines!”

And one of the boys admitted, “I would wear a skirt too if I could play like the bagpipers.”

Leslie Cranford’s fifth grade class was treated to a visit from classmate Daniel Palacios’ mother and sister, PHS 2009 graduate Mariela Tejada, representing El Salvador. Mariela currently attends Jefferson State Community College where she is studying to be a nurse.

If you drive down Pelham Parkway, you’ll notice some signs in Spanish and new businesses that cater to our diverse population.

American Poet Ursula LeGuin said, “Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new.”

In Pelham, we’re learning that communities don’t sit like stones either and we’re uniting and remaking constantly so that all of our kids emerge loved, valued, and equipped for the future proud of where they’ve come from, where they are now and where they’re headed.

Connie Nolen can be reached by e–mail at CNolen@Shelbyed.k12.al.us.