Teachers and school staff in the Voorhees Township School District are accustomed to seeing their students on a daily basis, but running around in front of those students while playing volleyball is an event that only happens once a year.
April 23 marked the 15th annual Voorhees Township Education Association Volleyball Challenge, in which teachers and staff from Kresson, E.T. Hamilton, Osage and Signal Hill elementary schools came together to raise money for four, $1,000 scholarships the association awards each year to seniors at Eastern High School who originally passed through one of the four lower schools.
On the night of the event, students and their families from the township’s four elementary schools packed a gymnasium at Eastern while wearing their school colors, brandishing noisemakers and cheering on their favorite players.
Rachael Hensel, a third-grade teacher at E.T. Hamilton and coordinator of the event, said in addition to the fundraising aspect of the event, the games also fulfill a bigger purpose in bringing the district’s schools together to bond through school spirit and friendly competition.
“It shows that even though that there’s four separate elementary schools, they’re untied together raising money for a good a purpose,” Hensel said before the event, as she was also preparing to play in the games.
Hensel also said even the teachers and staff who don’t play in the games still have a big role in the event, volunteering to work concession stands, sell and collect tickets, clean up after the event or even just sit in the crowd to cheer on their colleagues.
“A lot of the teachers come just to watch. You’ll see them here in the crowd,” Hensel said. “Pretty much the whole staff from every building is involved with everything.”
In turn, Hensel said a big part of what makes the event a success is the students getting excited for the chance to see their teachers outside a normal school setting.
“It’s harder to keep the kids off the court than the teachers,” Hensel said. “They love seeing their teachers play. They love seeing them outside of the building in general.”
Tony Klock, an enrichment program teacher at Kresson Elementary School and president of the VTEA, said he wanted to congratulate the staff and members of the VTEA as the event has become so successful that the association is hoping to potentially increase the amount of scholarship money awarded.
“This is something that we do as a labor of love. It has grown up into an amazing event, and it brings us together as an organization…and it’s really a positive experience for us and for the kids,” Klock said.
One such student at the event was 10-year-old Johnay Stilley of Kresson Elementary, with a Kresson shirt, Kresson-blue pompom and Kresson Cougar paw print painted on her face.
Johnay said she was at the event to support Kresson because of all the “fun stuff” she gets to experience there, such as math, science and reading, and she also wanted to support her teachers playing in the game.
“One is my teacher now, Ms. Branciforte, and the other is my old teacher, Ms. Kerns — I’m just excited for them to play,” Johnay said.
On the other side of the gym in the Osage Elementary section was parent Chrissy Beswick, who is also a member of the Osage Parent Faculty Association and could be found handing out Osage-green sunglasses and noisemakers.
Beswick said she believed the event was important to the students simply because it gets them more involved with their schools.
“It gets our kids to be a part of the schools, interact with each other, interact with their friends from other schools, which is really important, and help to be part of their teachers’ lives outside of school, which is also really fun for them,” Beswick said.
Beswick said she also predicated Osage, the defending champions, would once again best the other teams, a prediction fulfilled at the end of the night, when Osage beat Kresson in the finals, 21–12, to once again take home the trophy and bragging rights, until at least next year when excitement for the event begins to rise again.