Oklahoma teachers missing students set up play date

Teachers march for better wages, funding

By MERCEDES LEGUIZAMON AND BRANDON GRIGGS, CNN
Scott Heins/Getty Images

(CNN) - Over the past 10 days, teachers at an Oklahoma City elementary school have been busy protesting for higher wages and more school funding. Their students, with the school closed, have been mostly staying home.

But they missed each other.

So before marching on the state Capitol on Tuesday, educators at Wilson Elementary School met their pupils for a play date at the elementary school's playground.

"I was excited because I really miss my teacher a lot," Ellie, a first-grader, told CNN affiliate KFOR.

The teachers say they feel the same way.

"It was actually very encouraging to see that they still love seeing us," Jennifer Parkerson told CNN. "A lot of our parents were saying 'just keep fighting for my kids.'"

Emboldened by support from across the country, Oklahoma teachers are swarming the state Capitol for a second week in their quest for more resources.

Wilson Elementary has been closed for more than a week as its teachers join thousands of others in rallies at the Capitol, only about 10 blocks to the east.

Parkerson, who teaches first grade, said the idea for the play date was born at one of the rallies.

"Teachers were mainly saying how much they miss their students," she said. So one of the kids' parents suggested a play date at the school.

On Tuesday, students greeted their teachers with hugs, smiles and words of encouragement. Later, they scrambled around the playground and its jungle gym as teachers looked on and chatted with parents.

Ashley Barker, a pre-K teacher, said her students embraced her and didn't want to let go.

"(They) didn't care that we were talking to other adults, they wanted to give us hugs," she said.

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