RICHLAND, Miss. — When Linda Waterloo accepted a temporary position with Hartfield Academy in Flowood, Mississippi, she never expected to have one of the craziest semesters of her life.
Having already been a teacher for what she described as “an eternity,” she said having to move to teaching entirely online due to the current pandemic, has been quite the experience.
“I have really loved it,” she said.
Waterloo teaches seventh-grade English at Hartfield Academy. Recently, she and her class sent more than 60 letters to truck drivers in the area.
“My son, Trey, is the CEO of Capital City Trucking, and he told his dad, ‘The drivers are so discouraged,’ There aren’t any restaurants open, and there are a lot of places that didn’t even want truckers to come in,” she said. “I thought, ‘This is really awful.’”
One night she woke up with the idea of having her students write letters to truckers as a way to serve the community and as an encouragement to the drivers.
“The next day, in my online class, I told (my students), “This is what we are going to do.’ They were all in awe. They said, ‘We need to write these men and women and tell them how much we appreciate them, because not many people think of them.’
“We wrote letters and put a Bible verse on (each one) to encourage these drivers,” she said. “They are on the forefront, just like the first responders and medical teams. They are getting goods to the stores.”
Waterloo said she didn’t tell her son about the class project, but the office manager at Capital City Trucking, Judson Cavanaugh, was energetic about it and was happy to give the letters to the drivers. She said Cavanaugh had the children’s letters on display at the terminal, and when drivers came in, some of them became emotional as they read them.
“Some of the letters were just incredible, and so sweet,” Waterloo said. “A lot of them drew pictures. The office manager said some of the truckers cried and said it was so nice to be appreciated.
“I’ve been encouraging other people to do (projects like this) and let (truckers) know they are appreciated,” she said. “I had no idea it would mean as much to them as it did.”
Alan Stuckey, the chief financial officer for Capital City Trucking, said the drivers are appreciative of the letters.
“We need that right now,” Stuckey said. “You need that appreciation and support that gives them the motivation to keep moving and to keep working, and to get up every day and do the job.”
Stuckey said the drivers are viewing the letters, but because the company is also taking every precaution it can to follow sanitization practices, it is sometimes difficult find a safe way for all the drivers to see the letters. However, he said, the company is doing its best to make sure every driver has a chance to read the messages.
Waterloo has 61 students in her class, and every student wrote at least one letter. She said she has no way of knowing if more letters have been written by other students, but she said her son has set up a website, capcitytrucking.com, that allows viewers to leave an encouraging message for drivers online. Waterloo said she isn’t sure if any of her students have received written responses from any of the drivers.
“It was just precious, some of the things they wrote. They sent me their letters first before they sent them because I had to make sure they were correct,” she said.
“For example, one person wrote, ‘Thank you for continuing to deliver and drive during these scary times,’ and ‘Thank you for being strong so everyone gets what they need,’” Waterloo continued. “I told them afterwards, ‘People are really interested in what you have done. You did a great job, and I’m so proud of you.’”