BELLVILLE — Barb Hendrix has collected postcards for decades. Over the years, they amassed around her home, largely forgotten, in closets and cabinets.
So when Hendrix, an Ashland resident and teacher at Bellville Elementary School, was looking for a way to stay connected with her students, she decided to put the postcards to good use.
“I didn’t realize I had so many until I was cleaning closets out and going through things,” said Hendrix, who teaches K-5 physical education. “Before long I had a humongous stack of postcards and I thought, ‘I’m going to just start sending them to kids.’
“It just snowballed from there and it was like, ok, my goal is to get every child’s name on a postcard.”
When she’s not teaching, Hendrix is an avid traveler — she’s taken approximately 50 cruises and spent about a decade as a student chaperone for People to People, an international travel program for students.
Hendrix’s postcards came from all corners of the globe, China, Australia, England, Ireland, Wales, Scotland, Luxemburg, Germany, Belgium and various Caribbean nations.
During the first five weeks of distance learning, Hendrix went through her collection and sent out more than 300 postcards, one to each family with students enrolled at Bellville Elementary. On each card, Hendrix addressed the student (or students) by name and told them where and when she got the postcard.
After she ran out, she purchased postcards from local shops highlighting the flora, fauna and tourist attractions in Ohio.
“I would say about 80 percent of them got a postcard from a trip that I have been on,” she said.
Hendrix completed her mission of sending every child a postcard last week. Her students loved it.
“It made me feel so special that she sent me a postcard because I miss her, my school and friends so much,” said Tessa Weemhoff, a second grader at Bellville.
Some of her students have started to send mail back.
“Morgan, one of my kindergartners, drew a picture of me in the gym,” she said. “Jack, another one of my kindergartners sent me a picture of him doing pushups.”
“A fifth grader, she just wrote a humongous, long letter,” Hendrix continued. “She’s devastated because she doesn’t get to say goodbye. She doesn’t get to have field day. They don’t get to go on their fifth grade field trip. She just poured out her guts in this letter.”
Hendrix is responding to mail from her students, as well as keeping up with parents, who send pictures, texts and Facebook posts of their students completing gym class from home.
“My phone goes off all day,” Hendrix said. “ I try to make my assignments family friendly. This week is go play hide and seek or go on a mushroom hunt. And I have more families thanking me for encouraging family activities. Now kids want to go on mushroom hunts because ‘Miss Hendrix said.’”
Hendrix has been a staff member in the Clear Fork school district for 31 years. Before coming to Bellville Elementary two decades ago, she taught seventh and eighth grade math and special education.
“She was my math teacher back in the eighth grade,” said Tiffany Mills, whose children, Makaelah and Jordan, have Hendrix in gym class.
Mills described Hendrix as “the face of Clear Fork.”
“She knows everybody, she makes sure everybody feels welcome, she’s always joking around with the kids,” she said. “The kids are always on her heart and always on her mind. Her job is so much more than a 9 to 5. It’s what she lives, breathes and dies for.
“She loves our kids like they’re her own.”