When faculty and staff at Bellingham Christian School filed into a room for a training session late last month, Principal Shawn Cunningham handed out sets of Mickey Mouse ears.
He told the staff they’d need them for that day’s round of training. He was met with looks of confusion.
What Cunningham said next came as a surprise to everyone: The entire staff, thanks to anonymous donors, had been invited on an all-expenses-paid trip to Disneyland. Nobody knew what to say, and many were incredulous.
“We all just sat there, and I just said, ‘Shawn, is this a joke,’ ” vice principal Kim Savage said Tuesday. “He had to spend the next five minutes convincing us it was real.”
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Any doubts the staff had were gone Wednesday, Oct. 5, at about 2 p.m., when they loaded into a bus in the school parking lot for the ride to Sea-Tac Airport. They’ll spend two days exploring the Anaheim, Calif., theme park before returning on Saturday.
As much as we’re not going to be sitting at tables learning the craft of teaching, we’re going to be spending time together learning how to do life together. And I think years from now, we’ll be reflecting on this experience.
Bellingham Christian School Principal Shawn Cunningham
The trip also came with a send-off, with students lining the school’s halls and cheering as teachers walked out the doors. Most of the teachers set to go on the trip donned the Mickey Mouse ears Cunningham passed out the day of the announcement.
Talks about the trip began a few weeks ago, Cunningham said. The donors, who have remained anonymous except to him, have in the past made donations to the school and elsewhere around Whatcom County, he added.
“They want the teachers to be celebrated,” Cunningham said, adding that all of the school’s 26 staff were invited on the trip, but four had prior engagements and couldn’t go.
Though students won’t have class on Thursday and Friday, classes weren’t canceled for the trip, Cunningham said. Much like how the announcement was made in a training session, the trip itself falls on days that were already blocked out as teacher training days.
Darin Lewis, a second-grade teacher, said he was “totally in shock” when news of the trip came. This will mark Lewis’ third trip to Disneyland, but this time is different.
“I’m going with some of my favorite people,” he said.
Kindergarten teacher Susan Robertson holds an annual pass to the park and has been many times – but she’s never gotten tired of it, she said.
“I grew up in a foster home, so this was not made available to me,” she said. “So for me to be able to go, it’s awesome.”
Even though the two days of training will be spent at a theme park, Cunningham said the trip will serve as a two-day team-building exercise.
“As much as we’re not going to be sitting at tables learning the craft of teaching, we’re going to be spending time together learning how to do life together,” he said. “And I think years from now, we’ll be reflecting on this experience.”