OAKLAND -- Geneva Peare's second-grade class at Montclair Elementary School had a big surprise when they returned from lunch recess Tuesday -- Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan had come to visit the students.
The class had written letters to the chief in September thanking him for keeping the city safe. They were inspired by a book that Peare read to them, "Man Who Walked Between the Towers," written by Mordicai Gerstein in 2003.
The Caldecott Award-winning book is often used to commemorate 9/11 with children. The book chronicles the true adventures of Philippe Petit, a French aerialist, who tightrope walked between the two World Trade Center towers on Aug. 7, 2004, shortly before their completion.
Needless to say, Petit gets in trouble with the law. Peare's class discussed the role of the police in society and decided to write letters to the police chief.
"It was nice to get the letters," Jordan told the class. "I was very touched. It made my day. I wanted to come and thank you personally. I brought some friends with me."
Jordan arrived with seven officers assigned to Oakland's middle schools.
"We are here to let you know that your safety is important to us," Jordan continued.
Jordan read a few letters from the class. One boy asked how many people are in jail and how strong the bars are. Many more simply thanked the chief for keeping the city safe.
The class talked about the badges and stripes on the police uniforms. Jordan gave each child a police badge upon his departure.
The visit had been scheduled months in advance, and had nothing to do with last Friday's events in Newtown, Conn. Officers were specifically asked not to discuss the massacre because Peare had not discussed it with the students.
"It's nice for the kids to get acknowledgement from the chief," Peare said. "Kids don't always think that adults pay attention to what they say. This is special."
"This is really cool because I've never seen a chief of police before," said Franchesca Bolt. "He was nice and he is keeping our city safe. I'm happy he brought the other police because they're doing a lot to keep our city safe, too."
Avery Reischer-Craft also appreciated Jordan's efforts to keep the city safe.
"It was interesting to meet a chief," Reischer-Craft said. "He wasn't scary at all."
But Jordan Henwood thought "it was a little scary at first. I know the chief isn't scary because he keeps the city safe."
School psychologist Susan DeMersseman stressed "the importance for kids to see peace officers in a peaceful context. Even though they don't see them often, it's good for them to know that they exist and that they have jobs related to their safety."
"It was cool and fun," Dylan Paltiel said. "He talked about all kinds of stuff. We learned what they do for schools. He made us feel safe."
"I thought it was good because they gave kindness back to us," Nadia Peinodo said. "I might want to be a policewoman. I want to explore the world."
Luke Choi said: "There should be more signal lights in the city. I thought the visit was good. I want to be a policeman someday."
"Hopefully, my presence makes them feel safe," Jordan said. "I hope the message reignites through the school and throughout the community."