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'We want to show them that we care'

Though he had little to say about contract negotiations, substitute teachers or even having two days out of school due to a strike by some 600 Medford School District teachers, McLoughlin eighth-grader Josh Moss was more than willing to explain why he spent his time off making bike deliveries of more than 700 homemade cookies to his beloved teachers.

"I'm handing the cookies out to the teachers because they're on strike and because they're standing out there all day in the rain and it's kind of lonely, so we want to show them that we care," he said.

"We know they have to go through hard times with financial difficulties and always being there for us so much during our school day and putting up with all the students."

The teachers were treated to every flavor Josh and his mom, Medford resident Jerilyn Pool, could come up with, from chocolate chip and lemon poppy seed to peanut butter and brightly sprinkled birthday cake cookies.

"They loved all of them and were thanking me," he said.

"Mostly, everyone really liked the birthday cake cookies. We just wanted to show them that we hope the strike is over soon and they come back to school."

While few students have spoken out on the topic of the Medford teachers strike, the first two days of the protest have been met by gestures from many students and parents.

Tiny kindergartners passed out red apples and donuts while parents and colleagues from other districts coordinated delivery of water, supplies and gallons of coffee and tea.

A few families showed up with deliveries from Taco Bell, while a seemingly endless supply of water bottles were distributed from pickup truck beds.

After cold temperatures chilled teachers Thursday, local firefighters showed up with portable gas heaters Friday morning, and other supporters doled out hand warmers and umbrellas.

Medford resident Jesse Sword, who works with Allan Bros. Coffee, delivered 15 gallons of java Thursday and planned another shipment Friday.

"I just thought it was the right thing to bring down some hot coffee and hot tea and condiments for the folks out there standing outside in the cold," said Sword, a South Medford graduate.

"We often run specials for teachers at our beanery in Ashland. My girlfriend is a teacher, so I'm seeing firsthand what they're going through, and it's frustrating to see the school board trying to get substitutes focused and figured out instead of working with our teachers. It doesn't make any sense to me."

Seventh-grader Darius Johnson and his family delivered donuts and water Friday morning and planned a delivery of Costco sandwiches by midday.

"We just want to give them what they need while they're doing the strike. We need our teachers and we need to get back to school, but we want to show them our support right now," he said.

Sarah Dalke, a special education teacher from Griffin Creek Elementary, said the treats and gestures from the community were heartwarming for teachers.

"We've had so many things dropped off that we haven't even been hungry by the time we've had our lunch break," Dalke said.

"We knew we had a lot of community support, but it feels good to see it firsthand — and it makes the day go by faster and makes you feel better about being down here in this cold and rain, holding a sign all day."

December Tueller, a district psychologist who oversees teams of specialists at a half-dozen schools, said the gestures reinforced the importance of teachers taking a stand for improvements for both teachers and students.

"We care about our students and the district, that's why we're down here, so it's been really nice to see some community support and have so many people stop by," she said.

"It's been horribly cold weather, and people who drive by haven't been nice, so we appreciate the community members who have shown their support."

Pool said her son's efforts and those of other students were an important way to show support to discouraged teachers.

"I have a lot of friends who are teachers, and I have had five kids all attend Medford schools, so it was important for us to do something to show our support," Pool said.

"We realize that the last thing any of those teachers actually want to be doing is being out of their classrooms and away from their students, so we just want to support them however we can and make sure they know that we care about them and we support what they're having to do."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

From left, Bonnie Pool, 5, Josh Moss, 15, Jerilyn Pool and Grace Pool hand out cookies to striking teachers outside Central High School Friday in Medford. Mail Tribune / Julia Moore - Julia Moore