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Morning act greets students

Each morning at Canfield High School, a group of staff get together to serve up some laughs so students begin their day with a smile. Clowning around before school starts at Canfield High School are Michael Strohecker, Kristen Gennaro, Rick Amato and Peter Graff.

CANFIELD — Each morning at Canfield High School, students get the chance to start their day on the right foot.

Peter Graff, who teaches yearbook, computer graphics and pop and design; Michael Strohecker, who teaches health and physical education; Kristen Gennaro, a middle school teacher; and Rick Amato, head custodian; entertain the students in wacky ways each morning.

Back in August, Strohecker, Graff and Gennaro were asked to handle morning temperature checks.

The students weren’t enthused, Graff said.

Almost immediately, the trio began joking around with students, engaging them, getting laughs.

Once they got a positive response from the students, Graff said they decided to start dressing up.

“Forty-two themes later and we’re still going strong. We have another 31 on a list to go,” Graff said.

Strohecker said that Graff is “the mastermind” behind the daily ideas, which have ranged from a fishing trip, pajamas, water skiing, a wax museum, and even a turkey dinner scene on Thursday.

“We all kind of brainstorm,” Strohecker said.

After the annual Halloween festivities were reimagined due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the daily scenarios used to greet the students has been a “fun transition” from that, and they are able to do Halloween every morning now.

Gennaro added that the district not being able to celebrate Halloween is something everyone has missed. “It’s really enjoyable to do it every day.”

Feedback from the students has been positive, and students’ laughter is fueling the quartet to keep going, Graff said.

“One day one of the kids stopped me in the hall. He said, ‘You guys make it fun for me to come to school,'” he said.

Even parents drive by the school entrance where they are stationed each morning to get a quick smile, Graff said.

Parents have been posting on social media, too, Strohecker said.

“If we can just make the kids smile when they come in and start their day… It’s taken off into something we never thought,” Strohecker said.

Along the way, the trio brought Amato on board to help. He locks the door when they’re done, but it’s evolved into becoming part of the morning show.

Being part of the new morning tradition has made him want to continue being part of the Cardinal family.

“I feel like I’ve been here for 20 years but I’ve only been here since February,” he said.

Friendly practical jokes, such as switching furniture in a classroom every night after school for a month, show how the staff gets along, Graff said.

“‘That’s just the kind of stuff we do,” he said, trying to have a little fun with colleagues.

Strohecker said that the fun time the four have each morning is part of what makes the whole routine work.

“The staff generally enjoy each other. We spend time together outside of school” which translates into the school atmosphere in front of the students, Strohecker said.

The group agrees that the school and district administration as well as colleagues have all been supportive.

“There’s a whole building full of teachers here… But the same enthusiasm and passion we have for what we’re doing now… Every one of them are doing the same thing in their classrooms” — trying to make school during the pandemic as normal as possible, Strohecker said.

“They see us getting along and wanting to be with each other. It trickles down,” Gennaro said.

The morning routine and staff getting along show also enforce that,although times are uncertain and always changing, students don’t have to be afraid.

“We’re going to get through this and be OK,” Strohecker said. “You don’t have to come in the building scared every day.”

afox@tribtoday.com

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