Liz Jacobs teaches second grade at E. Rivers Elementary School. While her children attended E. Rivers, she volunteered at the school and served as president of its PTA. Jacobs was among a group of speakers during a ribbon-cutting ceremony opening the newly remodeled school building March 27. Here is an edited version of her remarks.

Liz Jacobs, teacher at E. Rivers Elementary

My love for E. Rivers began almost 16 years ago, in 1999. My name is Liz Jacobs and I am a second grade teacher here at E. Rivers. I have taught here for the past seven years, but my journey with E. Rivers began more than a decade before.

My son, Joseph, began kindergarten in 1999. He was in Mrs. Sears’ class and I was also mom to a baby girl. I had just taken a sabbatical from my teaching career in DeKalb County in order to stay home and raise our children.

At that time, not many families in the neighborhood supported E. Rivers and our decision to send Joseph here was met with questioning looks. Most families either moved to the suburbs after preschool, or enrolled in private school.

But my husband Bert and I made a conscious decision to stay in town and support our public school. I felt confident that with a decade of teaching experience under my belt, I would be able to recognize a quality school when I saw it. And I’m so glad that we took that chance.

Joseph’s first friends encompassed many nationalities and socio-economic groups. Not everyone was just like him. When our daughter, Annie, started kindergarten four years later, she had a similar experience.

I have to think those early experiences in acceptance and tolerance have shaped my children’s lives and have made them into the open-minded and respectful young adult and teenager they are today. Those experiences could not be taught, but instead were lived – and we have E. Rivers to thank for that.

Many things have changed at E. Rivers over the years. When my children started school, there were just under 400 children enrolled. We had a very small core group of PTA volunteers and an even smaller PTA budget.

I was drawn to volunteer at E. Rivers right off the bat. I helped out in the library with Sandy Wagner and go to know all the kids from different grades. I was soon chairing committees, some of which are still in existence today. During my time on the PTA, we started Movie Afternoons and also had Family Movie Nights.

The Field of Dreams became a reality and the partnership between Northside United Methodist and Peachtree Road United Methodist Sports Teams was begun. We ran the concession stand out of the backs of our minivans and a beach tent.

We had an anonymous donor offer to give us a large sum of money for a light and sound system for the auditorium if we could get the parents to match it – it seemed insurmountable back then, but we did it. The Talent Show began as a way to use our new lights and sound!

Though we were striving at our little school, we still were not fully enrolled. We worked tirelessly to spread the word about our treasure of a school. And slowly, but surely, families started to come.

Now, we have almost double the number of students we had when Joseph was in kindergarten. Lots more families in the surrounding neighborhoods have discovered our little school and are supporting it. Great things are happening here at E. Rivers.

Way back in 1990, it would have been impossible to imagine what E. Rivers would turn out to be. We are not such a little school any longer, but I know that the love and caring that attracted my family to this school are still here.

I can’t imagine my family’s life without E. Rivers and I know that we are better people because of our journey with this special school.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.