Estes Hills Student Receives Letter from President Obama

A local kindergartner got the attention of the most powerful person on the planet recently.

Sanaa Horton was a kindergartner in Claire Ross’ classroom at Estes Hills Elementary, in May, when they had a writing assignment. Sanaa decided she would write a letter to President Barack Obama.

“He helps our country. He helps the people that were poor. He takes care of America. That is why I love my President,” she recited on Tuesday in her first-grade classroom.

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She was reading her letter to the President because, as she was about to find out, the President had written back. President Obama sent a letter back to Sanna as well as pictures of the President, the first family and the first dog, Bo.

Sanaa Horton receiving gift package from President Barack Obama with her Kindergarten teacher Claire Ross. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Sanaa Horton receiving gift package from President Barack Obama with her Kindergarten teacher Claire Ross. Photo via Blake Hodge.

Ross read the response from the President to a class of eager listeners.

“Hearing from young people like you inspires me each and every day,” the President’s letter reads. “And I’m glad that you took the time to share your thoughts. As a nation, we have no higher priority than making sure the doors of opportunity are wide open for you and your generation. And, as President, that is a promise I will never stop working to keep.”

Ross says she has checked her mail with anticipation every day since sending the letter to the White House in May and adds it was emotional to receive the response on Monday night.

“I literally just cried and smiled at the same time,” Ross says, “and ran all the way home.

“I was truly running up the sidewalk, smiling and crying at the same time. [Sanaa] wanted it so much, and she worked so hard. And it came full circle.”
Ross adds she knew the moment would mean a lot to Sanaa, but Ross says she was excited to see what it meant to all of the other students.

“I hoped that all of the kids would feel inside that they can do anything that they put their mind to,” she says. “That we’re all here to help them. All the teachers here are here to support them and help them and help them reach their goals and dreams.

First-grade students at Estes Hill Elementary looking at items in gift package from President Barack Obama. Photo via Blake Hodge.

First-grade students at Estes Hill Elementary looking at items in gift package from President Barack Obama. Photo via Blake Hodge.

“It’s very heartwarming.”

Tamara Horton is Sanaa’s mother. She says she was shocked to hear the news from Ross that the President had written back to her daughter.

“I was like, ‘What?’ and [Ross] was like, ‘Yeah! I’m so excited and [Sanaa] is going to be so excited to when she sees it,” Horton recalled. “It’s touching as a mother.”

While Tamara was a bit surprised to hear back, she says Sanaa never had a doubt.

“She was like, “I knew he was going to send me a letter back,” Horton says. “For her to have that confidence that he was going to send something back is awesome.

“I’m having a proud-mama moment right now.”

They hadn’t picked out a place to display the fruits of Sanaa’s hard work around the house just yet, but that undoubtedly won’t take very long.

Save Money, Help Local Teachers

Help raise funds for teachers at Estes Hills Elementary School – and you can save some money for yourself as well.

It’s the “Earn to Learn” fundraiser, created by Estes Hills bookkeeper Michelle Hoover (a former WCHL employee). Twenty dollars buys a coupon book, with deals at a variety of local restaurants, stores and other establishments – and the proceeds go to fund professional development training for Estes Hills teachers.

Hoover joined Aaron Keck on “Aaron in the Afternoon” to discuss the fundraiser, along with Estes Hills teacher Alex Kaji and teaching assistant Savada Gilmore.

To purchase a coupon book, stop by Estes Hills Elementary School on weekdays from 7 am to 3 pm – or contact Hoover at 942-4753, extension 30222.

Parents, Students Wear Red, Support Teachers

CHAPEL HILL – Parents, students, and Chapel Hill’s mayor, Mark Kleinschmidt, lined the sidewalk outside Estes Hills Elementary School Monday morning to praise the teachers at the start of American Education Week.

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Teachers of Estes Hills walked by the students and parents who were cheering them on and saying thank you for all they do.

Mayor Kleinschmidt told a group that stuck around after the teacher parade that he got a bit choked up looking on.

“As a former teacher myself and someone who cares deeply about education, particularly that of our children here in Chapel Hill, it’s very heart-warming and celebratory, and it’s such a stark contrast to the way so many folks in North Carolina seem to be engaging with education today,” Mayor Kleinschmidt says.

In 1921, the Nation Education Association and the American Legion came together to create the American Education Week after finding out that 25 percent of the country’s World War I draftees were illiterate.

PTA President Courtney Limerick says with the current need of support around education in the state, this was a good time to start an outward show of support.

“The way things are in the state today, this was a great time to be able to show our appreciation throughout the year instead of just on Teacher Appreciation Week,” Limerick says.

Teacher Appreciation Week is May 6-10 this school year.

Mayor Kleinschmidt adds that the amount of work is only going up while the financial and other support is dwindling.

“These teachers haven’t had a raise in six years,” Mayor Kleinschmidt says. “The support has been dwindling; teachers’ aids have been cut. They’re working harder than they ever had before and are being rewarded less.”

Estes Hills Principal Drew Ware says support from the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools district continues to be strong, but it’s on the state level where he and others would like to see a change.

“Certainly paying our teachers more, paying our staff more is incredibly important,” Ware says. “It has an impact on students, but there are a number of other things that have a negative impact on students. Our district has done an amazing job of helping to, kind of, protect and build up around our students so they’re getting the best education they possibly can.”

American Education Week continues through Friday:

Monday, November 18: Kickoff Day

Nationwide Kickoff. Across the country, schools will celebrate excellence in education by hosting kickoff events and activities.


Tuesday, November 19: Parents Day

Schools will invite parents into the classroom for a firsthand look at what the school day is like for their children.


Wednesday, November 20: Education Support Professionals Day

Education Support Professionals keep schools running and students safe, healthy and ready to learn. Check out these charts to see how hard ESPs work to serve students in public schools and how committed ESPs are to both their jobs and their communities. Also watch the “It’s More Than Just a Job” videos below to learn more about ESP careers.

Raise Your Hand for Student Success: Education Support Professional Appreciation Radio Spot By 2013 ESP of the Year Donna Schulze


Thursday, November 21: Educator for a Day

Community leaders will be invited to experience the day as educators and experience the challenges of teaching and the needs of students. Learn more about this program through the Educator for a Day Promotional Kit.


Friday, November 22: Substitute Educators Day

Substitute educators play a vital role in the maintenance and continuity of daily education. Learn more about these professionals and take a look at resources and tips for substitute educators.