BELLE, W.Va. — Teachers, students, community members and union activists are showing their support for public education in West Virginia.

DuPont Middle School in Kanawha County was one of 1,500 schools nationwide Thursday who joined leaders with the American Federation of Teachers for a walk-in at the school.dupont-middle

“We’re just making a small statement that we hope has a big effect,” said Fred Albert, president of AFT in Kanawha County, state treasurer of AFT WV and sixth grade teacher at DuPont.

“For kids to see the cooks, the custodians, the secretaries, the teachers and the principals come together and say ‘we support you’ and we’re all in this together for you, you’re the reason we’re here, that has a big impact on their lives,” he said.

Before the walk-in, Principal Tommy Canterbury stood outside and greeted every student that walked by, like he does every day.

“Good morning!” he said multiple times to students in the middle of speaking to MetroNews.

“A lot times the only times people come to a school is for an athletic event or for some type of concert,” Canterbury said. “We’re here every day. Our teachers are here every day and they do an outstanding job.”

A lot of negative statistics regarding teacher vacancies and teacher pay have surfaced in recent months, but Canterbury said he’s hoping this walk-in will spark positive discussions about the need for these teachers.

“Teaching has gotten a bad rep,” he said. “But nothing to me is better than seeing a kid get something for the first time. That’s the best thing in the world.”

Kristy Peters, eighth grade science teacher at DuPont, was a part of Thursday’s walk-in. She said students need to see that teachers understand them, are part of the community and want them to succeed.

“To have a free public education available to them with teachers who are invested in their success and you can see them as a whole person, not just a test score, I think that’s important for success,” Peters said.

Being a West Virginia teacher, she said, is something she’s proud of. The backing of AFT makes her job that much better, Peters said.

“When you feel support, it’s much easier to do your job and to do our there and fight for these kids every day,” Peters said.

Several other walk-ins took place across West Virginia Thursday. Events were scheduled at Clay County Middle School in Clay County, Sherman High School in Boone County and T.A Lowery Elementary School in Jefferson County.