Jane Catezone will be among the Garfield and Grant-White volunteers helping out at McDonald's first McTeacher's Night on Wednesday. | Courtesy John Rice

If your child is attending Garfield School or Grant-White School and lovin’ it, the McDonald’s at 420 Desplaines Ave. is offering parents and students a chance to give back. The restaurant is hosting it’s first-ever “McTeacher’s Night” today. From 4 to 7:30 p.m., 20% of sales during this period will go to the North Side Parent Teacher Council, which supports both schools.

Apart from the money raised, the spectacle of teachers working behind the counter should captivate, and possibly confuse, their students. Even Superintendent Lou Cavallo is getting in on the act, serving shakes. Teachers and staff will greet customers, bus tables and serve ice cream. So many signed up — 10 from Grant-White, 15 from Garfield — they will have to work in shifts.

“We’ve had a lot of success with the parent group,” said Garfield Principal Jamie Stauder. “It bridges the two schools together. They promote family events, like movie night, bowling night and Uncle Pancake.” Stauder knows firsthand what a fun event the McDonald’s fundraiser is for families because she participated in her son’s McTeacher’s Night. 

“Kids get a kick out of having their teacher wait on them.”

Jane Catezone is Garfield’s teacher rep. “I put the ‘T’ in PTC,” Catezone said. She also attended a McTeacher’s Night for her son’s school. “He really enjoyed seeing his teachers work behind the counter. It builds family and community.”

Teachers will wear colorful shirts. They’ve also put up posters and distributed coupons to the students. Participants are asked to present the coupons at the counter, so that the PTC will get credit for the purchase. 

The teacher reps at Grant-White are also promoting the event. Sue Giblin plans to serve as a greeter while Pat Malarski will clear tables. “Everyone wanted to work the drive-thru,” Giblin noted. In fact, so many teachers signed up, they had to be split into three 1-hour shifts. Giblin plans to promote the tip jars at the event as well. “I’ll holler for a dollar,” she promised. Besides the thrill of having their teacher hand them a cone, Ronald McDonald will be there in the flesh.

Sue Harvey, vice president of the PTC, is excited about the fundraiser because her two boys attend Garfield. “The PTC will be there to help out, talk to families and take photos,” she noted. “Dr. Cavallo is coming at 4 and will work for an hour. Grant-White is making the tip jars.” Tipping is generally not allowed at McDonald’s, but it will be encouraged at this event as 100% of tips will go right to the PTC.

Harvey indicated the proceeds will go toward hosting the Grandparent Breakfast and other fun events. “It’s a chance to give back to the school and build up our budget for other events. It’s a fun and cool event and we hope to do it every year,” she said, “spring and fall.” 

Julie Travers is the coordinator between McDonald’s and the schools. The local McDonald’s owner, Jan Nelson, said they use Travers’ company to reach out to communities to show them the benefits of McTeacher’s Night. The schools order shirts and posters through Travers and she gives them specific instructions on how to prepare for the event and get the schools excited. 

“We’ve always done things like this,” Nelson said, speaking on behalf of her husband, Ray. “We used to do benefit nights for schools but we saw several operators doing McTeacher’s Nights. We’ve already found great success at our other locations.

“The object is to get the families into the store,” she added. “The appeal is for the students to see their teachers working the drive-thru, greeting families and serving them fries.” 

Nelson noted that a McDonald’s in Itasca filled the tip jars with $1,400 on a McTeacher’s Night. If it rains, she added, supporters can still use the drive-thru. Depending on the success of tonight’s event, Nelson envisions another fundraiser in the fall. 

John Rice is a columnist/novelist who has seen his family thrive in Forest Park. He has published two books set in the village: The Ghost of Cleopatra and The Doll with the Sad Face.