AUSTIN, Texas – With the school year cut short due to COVID-19, one Texas kindergarten teacher found a creative way to check up on his students while keeping his distance.

What You Need To Know

  • Teacher runs in neighborhood where many of his students live

  • Kids greeted him while he ran

  • Hopes to do a second run soon

Vincent Valdes, known as “Mister V” to his students, teaches at Clayton Elementary in Austin. The kindergarten teacher is also an avid runner and one day decided to add a little more to his usual workout.

“So lately I have been making what I call ‘running art,’” he explained. “I haven’t been using hike and bike trails but using various neighborhoods in Austin.”

Most of Valdes’ students live in the Circle C neighborhood in South Austin so the teacher decided that might be a good neighborhood to start running in.

“It’s very touching,” said Mikaela Soto, the parent of a student in Valdes’ class. “For us as parents, I feel like all the things that he [has] done helped. He’s given them a sense of comfort that was pulled out from under them, I guess you could say.”

Valdes normally keeps track of the GPS data from his runs. For example, he’s taken routes that make the run look like a cat or a geometric object. On his run to greet his students, his route ended up looking like a sideways heart.  

“If you give the kids these opportunities to see you, it makes them feel pretty special, as far as kids are concerned,” Soto said. “They talk about it and they share it with others.”

Soto’s kids rode their bikes to greet Valdes while other kids made signs, and some even waged a short lightsaber battle in honor of Star Wars Day since Valdez was dressed as a Jedi.

“Seeing them in person really made a difference and I missed that a lot,” Valdes said.

Valdes is currently planning more runs that will allow him to see his students in the neighborhood again.