VALDOSTA – A Facebook video showing greetings between J.L. Lomax Elementary School first-graders and their teacher had skyrocketed to 7.8 thousand views earlier this week.
Courtni O’Neal’s students decide how they want to start their day each morning by choosing a greeting of their choice, a daily routine for the class.
The choices are elbow, pinkies, silly face, high five, hug, thumbs up, super smile and a fist bump.
The video, which was posted Friday, Aug. 23, has reached more than 200 reactions and has been shared nearly 100 times as of late Tuesday morning.
The woman behind the camera was a school counselor, Regina Kimbrough.
“I didn’t think it would get that many views but I’m excited that it has because I want people to see that we are doing good things at this school and the kids like coming to school,” she said.
While O’Neal did not expect the video to get as many views as it has received, she said her students are excited to see themselves on camera and one student expressed the class will have fans.
Destiny Foster, 6, likes to hug O’Neal while Zarrion Giles, 7, enjoys fist bumping the teacher, the students said.
“She’s nice,” Giles said. “She’s the best teacher at J.L. Lomax.”
Both students agreed they feel as if O’Neal cares about them and loves them.
O’Neal, who has been with Valdosta City Schools for five years, spent three years as a paraprofessional before becoming a teacher.
She began the morning greetings, or what she calls positive interactions, to show her students she cares about them.
“As teachers, we don’t really know what environment our kids are coming to us from so they might come from wonderful homes with good morning and hugs and I love you’s, and then some kids, this might be their only hug for the day or only I love you for the day,” O’Neal said.
J.L. Lomax encourages relationships with students, she said.
While O’Neal was the first to do so, two other teachers have followed her lead and now greet their students the same way in the mornings.
“By doing this, it’s fun for them. It just shows that you care and that school is more than just workbooks and worksheets,” O’Neal said.
“It’s coming to make that connection and knowing that somebody in the building cares for you and wants you there.”
Kimbrough said all of O’Neal’s students look happy as they enter the room.
When she passes by, students seem to be actively involved with learning.
“They’re engaged in learning, and If we can get all of our kids hyped up, excited, first thing in the morning and they stay engaged, that’s going to help them have a better day and learn,” Kimbrough said.
Teachers should take time to know their students beyond their names or their student numbers, O’Neal said.
They should show students there are people who care about them. She works to keep up the positive energy in her classroom.
“You have to because you just see so much during the day,” O’Neal said. “A lot of kids will bring trauma to school or you just hear so many stories so you just have to bring the positive and be happy and find the joy in what you do during the day.”
Her classroom door displays inspirational messages such as "Make today great" and "Believe in yourself" furthering her positive reinforcement.
During the first day of school, O’Neal taught her kids that they’re all a family and that family supports one another.
For O’Neal, it’s as if her students are her own children.