Something very special and heartwarming happened at yesterday’s Wilton Public Schools (WPS) Convocation, held at the Wilton High School Field House, to launch the 2017-18 school year. At the annual, all-staff, kick-off event, the administration surprised teachers with a team-building exercise that was also an incredible way to give back to community members in need.

The WPS employees were grouped into 95 teams to work together to assemble bicycles, which will be distributed to four organizations helping local individuals in need. Superintendent Dr. Kevin Smith and his assistant, Lucille DeNovio worked with Wilton Social Services, the Domestic Violence Crisis Center, the Jericho Partnership–Danbury, and Northeast Cycles to donate the bicycles according to need.

Thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor, the Wilton School District was able to purchase 95 unassembled bicycles ranging in size from 10″-26″ and a portion of the tools needed for assembly. Through donations from Home Depot in Danbury and New Milford, as well as Stanley Black and Decker in New Britain, CT, 95 sets of tools were available to employees.

The effort, according to Smith, is to start the new school year with a community service activity, reinforcing the district’s commitment to the community via multiple methods and channels. It’s also gives the gift of giving to the teachers to inspire them and provide a way for them to give back to the community in an uplifting, affirming way through teamwork.

Smith told the assembled teachers that the idea sprung from a comment made by a faculty member who had said, “The Wilton Public Schools was like a high-performance bicycle–we have all the best, right parts, but our challenge is just to get the parts working together.”

He continued the bike metaphor with the theme that, “We’re on a journey together. While the destination (achieving our vision) is important, it’s the quality of the journey that’s equally important. What makes a journey so meaningful is not what you see and do along the way, but who we journey with. I’m deeply grateful to journey along with all of you, and I hope you feel the same about your colleagues.”

Smith also gave credit to faculty member Gina Dignon with the idea of building bicycles as a team building concept. The teachers were assigned to teams with teachers from other parts of the district, so the goal was to get to meet, connect and reconnect with colleagues with whom they might not work day-to-day.

The teachers enjoyed the project immensely, both for the team-building task aspect as well as the social service component.

Middlebrook teacher Janet Nobles worked with four teachers she had never met before. She said she was very excited about the program, and she’ll definitely tell her students about the experience.

“We’re always trying to do things to make those same connections for kids. There’s only so much you can do in professional development to teach that. It’s more about realizing that in your own life and making those connections between relationships you have with people in the world and how to make that with your students. To be able to put these bikes together and know that they’re going to kids who need them, gives us a natural reason to want to work together and do something well, and do it for others,” she said, adding, “It’s 45 minutes of our day, but it’s the part we’re going to remember and feel really good about.”

Convocation also included some surprise fun from veteran Miller-Driscoll teachers (and crowd favorites) Brian Ennis and Sal Giamo, with inspiring, motivational talks, as well as an incredible singing performance from Wilton High School sophomore Tyler Blain.

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