Building relationships with students, one carrot at a time
The first thing many students do when they arrive at White Pine Elementary is run to Rod Bullock’s classroom--not to see his stuffed swan or to touch the real snakeskin pinned to the wall--but to grab and eat their daily baby carrot.
Two years ago, Bullock, who is White Pine’s speech teacher, brought leftover vegetables from a friend’s wedding to school to hand out to his students. The kids liked it so much, Bullock started buying carrots and handing them out daily before school. In the fall months, he brings in plums from his neighbor’s tree and then transitions back to carrots as the season ends. Whatever the food, students flock to his class to receive their coveted healthy treat.
Even with the high demand for carrots, Bullock’s supply never runs out. A mystery White Pine teacher replenishes them as they start running low. Though they wish their identity to remain unknown, this teacher, along with Bullock, appreciates the importance of this small tradition.
“In the morning, a lot of these kids go to visit all the teachers’ classrooms for a few minutes, starting at mine,” said Bullock. “It's just part of what we call the ‘spirit of White Pine.’ They go in and see their teachers to touch base with them. I don't provide services to most of the kids because I teach speech, but they come in here anyway, to get a carrot. It gives me the opportunity to get to know them. They’re good kids.”
Principal Shellie Healy said that it’s not just the carrots that attract students to Bullock’s classroom. His love and genuine care for each student at the school is apparent, and to many, he is considered “the heart of White Pine,” keeping a pulse on everyone at school. Even if they aren’t his students, Bullock always seems to know which kids need a little extra help, and he’s happy to be right there for them, with a bag of baby carrots in hand.