Every November just before Thanksgiving, in celebration of American Education Week, the Orange County Public School Foundation brings business and civic leaders into the classrooms in a fun and engaging way to talk with students about academics, careers, and the future.
They call it Teach-In.
In Apopka, the Teach-In event attracted Apopka Mayor Bryan Nelson, Commissioners Doug Bankson, Kyle Becker, and Diane Velazquez, members of the Apopka Fire and Police Departments, Pastor John Fisher of The First United Methodist Church of Apopka, as well as businesses like OrlandoHealth, and Baptiste Orthodontics and Dentistry for Kids.
"Teach-In is a great opportunity for our kids to learn about different jobs and possibly expose them to careers they never knew existed," said Orange County Public School Board Member Melissa Byrd. "This is how we open the world to our kids."
Cynthia Schweitzer is in full agreement with Byrd.
"We take our commitment to being a partner in education very seriously," said Schweitzer, the Practice Director at Baptiste, and an annual participant in the Teach-In. "Dr. Baptiste values being part of the community and he's chosen public schools as one of the ways he wants to give back and be a partner."
Certainly, other businesses and individuals participate in the event, but for Baptiste, Teach-In Thursday is like Super Bowl Sunday. But this year, the Teach-In was spread out over an entire week, which made scheduling even more challenging.
According to Schweitzer, 16 members of the Baptiste staff of 25 taught in a class during the Teach-In week. In total, the Baptiste team was present at 12 schools in Orange County, including Dream Lake Elementary, Apopka Memorial Middle, and Wekiva High Schools in Apopka.
It's such an important part of the culture at Baptiste that they try not to see patients on the official Teach-In day. In fact, they celebrate an early Thanksgiving after the event concludes.
"We closed the office on Thursday," Schweitzer said. "It's become a tradition. Some of our staff look forward to it because they love to go to the schools. Some are scared because they're not teachers... they're going out of their comfort zone. But then we all gather together and have our potluck Thanksgiving meal... and it was like we were coming back from battle. We all had great stories to tell about our time with the students. It's a team bonding experience. It was really cool."
Another Baptiste tradition is to not only give back by participating in the Teach-In but also by bringing gifts for the students.
"We hand out little goodie bags," Schweitzer said. "So they all get a toothbrush, floss, bookmark, a flyer about the office, a pencil, and a pen."
Schweitzer says they start working on the goodie bags about two weeks before the event. This year they distributed over 1,500.
"We have a wonderful staff and a messy office in the weeks leading up to Teach-In," she said.
Schweitzer and the Baptiste staff are already looking forward to Teach-In 2022, and hope other businesses and individuals will take part as well.
"We encourage others to do the same," she said. "That's the message. If we can do it, you can do it. And if we all did it, imagine what our community would be like!"
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