Makenzie Schoellman sometimes feels like no one really pays attention to her at school except for her best friend Destiny Jones.
“Usually, I’m not noticed because I feel like I’m invisible,” said Makenzie, who’s 12 years old.
She feels it in her physical education class, when Makenzie says the other students hardly include her or Destiny, who’s also 12.
The girls both describe themselves as bookworms. They gravitate to the library at Collinsville Middle School, where they like to hang out with Mr. Hayman.
Every day, they eat lunch in the library and joke around with Michael Hayman, the librarian media specialist, who makes them laugh. It’s clear to both of the seventh-graders that he enjoys their company, too.
“He also likes us hanging out with him because we always laugh and stuff like that. We’re always happy,” said Destiny. They say they’ve known that for a while. But it still meant a lot to the girls when they heard Hayman say it out loud recently.
Makenzie and Destiny were in the library one day when Hayman got their attention. They were confused but suspected something special was about to happen. He was holding up his cellphone as he spoke to them.
“I just wanted to let you know that you are two people who made me want to come to work today,” Hayman says to them. Their reactions were recorded in a video on Hayman’s phone.
“Really?” Makenzie says.
“Yep,” Hayman responds. “Every day, you come in here, you eat lunch, you always have something funny to say. ... You’re always in a very good mood; you’re always laughing. I appreciate you every day.”
Other Collinsville Middle School teachers did it, too, including Principal Kimberly Jackson.
All of the educators filmed the unsuspecting students’ reactions, which were edited into one video that was posted to the school district’s social media. It’s titled “Teacher appreciations.”
Jackson said the video is part of a larger effort to use media to share positive messages online, where bullying is common. The school is “flooding social media with that positivity,” she said.
This video was especially important for the quiet students it featured, according to Jackson, because it let them know “people see them, know they’re here and care about them, too.”
“Every single one of them either shed a tear or were ecstatic afterward,” Jackson said of the children. “I think it made their day.”
Destiny, for instance, said Hayman’s message made her “very, very happy.”
“...I actually got noticed by somebody. I rarely get noticed,” she said. “Mostly, I don’t get noticed because I’m a normal person.”
It was only later that Hayman said he realized the effect that the video had on Makenzie and Destiny.
“Destiny emailed me over the weekend that she showed her mom and her dad ... they sent it to their uncles. Makenzie even, Friday after school, she came by just to say, ‘Thank you’ again,” Hayman said. “I think that’s kind of where it hit, where it was like, ‘It really, really meant a lot.’ That’s where you kind of get a little bit choked up and try to hold back some tears, you know, even though some may fall.”
Jackson said she got the idea from another school that posted a similar video on social media. She asked her media specialist — Hayman — whether Collinsville Middle School could do it, too.
“We can do anything,” Hayman says. “A lot of times, I’m just waiting for people wanting to do stuff. Anything that happens at a school, it takes a principal, it takes teachers; it can’t be just one person. And that’s kind of where I see my role as helping others do something that they’re not able to do, whether it’s making videos, whether it’s promotion, whether it’s audio.”
The video was a learning opportunity for students behind the scenes, too. Hayman teaches a media and technology class, which helped him combine the video clips, add music underneath the existing audio and even add subtitles to translate for a teacher who speaks to a student in Spanish.
The class produces a variety of media products. Jackson says she will often put them to work.
“I kind of have my own production crew as the principal,” she said. That crew is made up of middle schoolers who help her surprise other unsuspecting people with words of appreciation from time to time, including teachers and the school resource officer.