Students across the Fort Lee School District enjoyed an early dismissal Wednesday, as Thanksgiving recess began, but not before many of them got a chance to celebrate the holiday with their friends and classmates.
At , for example, an estimated 100 people filled the “all purpose room” for the annual Kindergarten Thanksgiving Feast, a Fort Lee tradition dating back many years—longer than most in attendance could remember.
“I’ve been teaching 36 years, and we’ve been doing this for as long as I can remember,” School No. 1 Kindergarten teacher Leslie Engleberg told Patch.
The feast, sponsored by the school’s PTA, included parents of some of the children, six Kindergarten teachers, school administrators, five classes of Kindergartners, who showed up wearing paper pilgrim and Native American hats, and for the first time in its long tradition, members of the Fort Lee VFW.
“This is our first year with our veterans, and we’re very thrilled to have them,” Engleberg said. “We’re very grateful, and it’s so nice to get the community involved. We’re so proud of our veterans, and we’re so proud of what they’ve done for us, and we thought it would be such a nice thing to do.”
Wednesday’s menu consisted of turkey, corn, cornbread, applesauce, apple juice and Thanksgiving cookies for dessert.
The kids had a hand in stirring up the cornbread batter, “so they feel like they made that,” Engleberg said.
The school’s “sixth grade buddies,” who are paired with the Kindergartners to do cross-curricular activities like reading with them, among other things, at least once a month, joined the kids for dessert, much to the apparent delight of the younger students.
Fort Lee Business Administrator Cheryl Balletto and Acting Superintendent Steven Engravalle even joined in the fun, donning pilgrim hats of their own and posing for pictures with some of the kids.
Diane Henry of School No. 1 said that while students in other classes were celebrating traditions of their own, with parties in their classrooms, the annual Kindergarten event is particularly special at the school.
“We always have brought the Kindergarteners together to do a Kindergarten Feast just so they can share with each other,” she said. “It’s a big tradition here.”
The “all hands on deck” affair saw parents, teachers and PTA members helping out, and a special thanks went out to Pizza Nova for helping heat up some of the food and head custodian Johnny Arroyo for running back-and-forth to bring it into the school.
Along with Engleberg, School No. 1 Kindergarten teachers include Judy Gratale, Stacie Zafiris, Karen Simone, Amy Mirkovic and Carmela DiMaio.
“We just have a wonderful staff at this school,” said principal Kristine Cecere. “They care not just about the kids in their own classes; they care about all the students in the school. And I always invite the veterans to our events. We appreciate having them, and they’ve done so much for us.”