Grandparents flock to Shabbona Elementary for their special day

SHABBONA – They shared, laughed, talked, learned from each other and enjoyed a musical program presented by their grandchildren. And all that happened before lunch when about 300 grandparents visited Shabbona Elementary School for its annual Grandparents’ Day.

Helene and Jim Parker drive from Rockford each year to visit grandson Drake Prestgaard’s class.

“We haven’t missed a year yet,” Helene Parker said. “We like seeing what they’re learning. They’re so advanced,” she said as he played an educational game on an iPad in his third-grade class.

Since they live in town, Pam and Frank Ottengheime have an easy time getting there every year to visit with their grandson, Blake McRoberts.

“It’s nice to have this,” Pam Ottengheime said. “Next year he has to share us with his younger sister – she’ll be in kindergarten.”

School Principal Dave Mantzke was thrilled with the response from the grandparents.

“We easily have over 300 grandparents here,” Mantzke said. “This is an amazing turnout.”

Mantzke said every year, students’ grandparents come from all over the area, with some visiting from other states.

He credited not only the classroom teachers for creating ways for the children and their grandparents to interact, but also art teacher Betty Tuestad for the art projects that line the hallways, and music teacher Sue Jacobson for the musical program presented in the gym.

During that program, students danced and sang energetically, to the delight of their grandparents.

“[Jacobson] puts almost as much time into this program every year as she does the Christmas program,” Mantzke said. “It’s really kind of magical.”