WISE COUNTY, Va. (WJHL) — Mary Beth Masters can often be found outside class hours at Wise Primary School hosting a family learning night, or getting ready to feed hundreds of kids through a program she took on and grew.
“I’m doing what I love,” she said.
Masters has been in education for 27 years. For more than a decade, she has served as family engagement coordinator at Wise Primary School.
“My job entails involving parents in our school, making them feel welcome,” she said. “We do lots of parent meetings with these special events for our students, and it’s all about engaging our families in our community with our school.”
Masters holds nights of educational activities that encourage families to participate together. The stuffed animal sleepover is a participant favorite, according to Masters. Students bring their stuffed animals to a Family Literacy Night. They participate in many reading, math and STEM activities, and as they leave, the students tuck their stuffies in, give them a kiss goodnight and the fun begins!
The stuffed animals stay with Masters all weekend as they go on adventures everywhere with her. The stuffed animals have gone to many places, including the Natural Tunnel Park, the movies and to meet a couple of officers.
Masters said she loves looking back on the photos from each year. It’s this kind of planning and commitment Masters says requires extra hours.
“So there’s lots of hours put in behind the scenes that people do not see but people usually see my car sitting out front,” she said. “I’m here in the evenings and a lot of times on the weekends as well.”
Masters is also proud of the Lunchbox 276 program, where she provides weekend meals to students who are food insecure.
“Whenever they go home, they may have empty cupboards or they may not have just enough food to sustain them through the weekend,” she said.
The program has grown and expanded to eight schools across Wise County and the city of Norton. It’s fully based on donations, Masters said.
“Sometimes in the hallway, they’ll be like, are we getting the food bag today?” Masters said. “They just get so excited to be able to take the food bags home. We’ve also had instances we found out that they may be not taking that food for themselves, but taking it and sharing it with their family at home.”
Masters said she has a difficult time assuming credit for programs that take a village to be successful. And everything she does, she does with her students’ best interests in mind.
“There’s a pacifier (on my desk) and it’s just a daily reminder for me whenever I’m looking at my desk that I’m dealing with somebody’s baby,” she told News Channel 11. “And our parents, they send their babies to our school. And so we have to realize, you know, you’re dealing in your planning and you’re engaging with their babies. And if that’s their baby, they’re my baby, too.”
Masters has babies of her own. She said her greatest accomplishment is her three children. She recently became a grandmother and loves to spend every spare minute with her family.
So, every Friday when the perfect attendance students get to dance in the halls, she knows those in need will be taken care of until she sees them again on Monday.