'Anything to help out:' Barrie mayor pops into several virtual classrooms
Starting the new year with a return to virtual learning has been tough for many teachers and students, which is why many public figures, like Barrie's mayor, are trying to brighten spirits.
Over the last few weeks, Mayor Jeff Lehman has visited students across Barrie in their virtual classrooms.
"The reality is because the teachers only had two days notice that they were going to go virtual, they weren't planning virtual lessons," Lehman told CTV News. "So I felt terrible for the teachers, and I thought this is maybe a small way that I could help them create some content and hopefully have a bit of fun."
Earlier this month, Lehman posted a proposal on social media to join classrooms "at the risk of overloading my sked - I always have time for this," he wrote. "Anything to help out right now."
Since then, the mayor said he and his office had been overwhelmed by requests.
Jamie Cable, a Grade 8 teacher at Codrington Public School, was among those who took the mayor up on his offer.
"I think what spoke to me the most was having a face on camera that wasn't my own for a little while," Cable said. "I thought it would be a breath of fresh air to get the mayor on here."
Lehman said he's popped into virtual classrooms from Kindergarten to Grade 11.
Cable said he decided to surprise his students with the mayor's visit, which included a question and answer period.
"I think for the most part it gave them an opportunity to connect to a human as opposed to just the name Mayor Jeff Lehman," Cable said. "He gave them the opportunity to contact him through his one of many inboxes to share any ideas or suggestions that they might have to how we can improve our city."
The mayor said he was impressed with the questions, with youngsters wanting to hear his thoughts on hot topics, including COVID-19 and homelessness.
But, there were also more personal questions.
"What's my favourite food? A lot of classes asked that! What's your favourite food? What's your favourite restaurant? And I always have to answer that and say I'm not allowed to have favourites, but here's some that I go to," Lehman chuckled.
The Barrie mayor isn't the only one taking part. Other Ontario mayors, including Guelph's Cam Guthrie and Ottawa's Jim Watson, have also participated.
Lehman said interacting with children is always a highlight.
"Aside from it's always great talking to kids, you get to talk about your city, and you get to talk about why you do the job and why it's important to me. And it helps remind me. It gives me more energy for all the rest of the stuff that we're trying to deal with these days."
Unfortunately, the mayor couldn't meet every request but said he's looking forward to resuming in-person visits in the coming months.