A counselor at Herald Elementary in Collinsville has a goofy sense of humor, and now she has photographic proof that all of her co-workers do, too.
Lee Ann Due talked her colleagues into wearing the same Sesame Street sweater while taking photos for their official yearbook portraits. Now the yearbooks feature two full pages of educators dressed like Bert and Ernie.
Due says the whole thing started when she was shopping with a friend last summer. She picked out a Bert and Ernie sweater but was too embarrassed to admit it, when she learned her friend had picked one out, too.
They bought the sweaters, put them on and started taking photos. Due and her friend, a former Oklahoma educator now living in Missouri, both work with elementary-aged kids and both have an appreciation for Sesame Street.
But then Due hatched a plan.
"As any educator knows, we're one of the few jobs that makes you take your picture EVERY school year for the yearbook," she said. "Who in God's green Earth wants to have their picture taken yearly for display, right?! So, like many of my colleagues out there in surrounding Oklahoma schools struggling to keep our heads up amidst financial turmoil and low morale, I thought it might be fun to 'tweak' our school yearbook pics a bit, make it fun!"
Due was dealing with a great loss when she returned to work last fall. Her son's father died suddenly that summer and going back to school was really tough, but she says her family of colleagues stepped up.
"They made us feel so loved and supported. When picture time came around, I told them about my sweater story and that I thought it would be fun to have us ALL take our pictures in this goofy sweater," she said.
She said the usual worries about appearance evaporated as the sweater was passed from person to person, until all 60 educators were photographed wearing it.
"It brought the whole staff together for a crazy, goofy cause and made us all smile! I had the best time watching my colleagues and family smile and laugh."
She said the photographers had fun, too. But the real pay-off came when the yearbooks arrived.
"The staff picture pages WERE AWESOME! To see us all in that goofy striped Bert and Ernie sweater brought everyone together for a happy bonding experience!" Due said. "Making our jobs fun is the best incentive, in any workplace."
We first met Due earlier this year when she was raising money to buy "wobble" chairs from some of her students.
That effort was successful, too.