Reiche teachers Joy Goddard and Kristen Fox celebrate after plunging into the waters at East End Beach Sunday as a fundraiser to provide books to students at the school. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

PORTLAND — This time of year it takes a lot of courage to jump into the icy cold waters of Casco Bay, but that’s just what a dozen Reiche Community School staff members did Sunday to show students the power of facing your fears.

Third grade teacher Kristen Fox had always wanted to do a polar plunge, but was hesitant. After encouragement from fourth grade teacher Joy Goddard, Fox decided to take on the “Jump for Courage” challenge and use the plunge at East End Beach as a learning opportunity for her students.

Annetta Weatherhead, an education technician at Reiche Elementary School, basks in her victory after taking a dip at East End Beach Sunday. Michael Kelley / The Forecaster

“Kids face their fears everyday, whether doing a math problem or a test,” Goddard said. “We are trying to show them you can face your fears.”

Goddard and Fox did a test run in November, and Fox and her husband have made the frigid dip every week since them, she said.

“I am addicted. I can’t stop,” Fox said Jan. 29. “We did it last weekend and the wind chill was 5 degrees. I love the cold. It feels so good.”

Sunday’s dip into the 42-degree water raised $4,000, enough to buy 400 books for students with the theme of perseverance and overcoming obstacles. The books, funded through DonorsChoose, were handed out Monday. Fox has had more than 20 projects funded through DonorsChoose over the last seven years, including projects that raised money for books, equipment and supplies for the classroom, school visitors and field trips.

The pandemic has been hard on both educators and students, Fox said, and the books and Sunday’s event were both part of the theme of facing fears that Reiche staff has been weaving into instruction all year.

Goddard said because “it’s been a tough time and its been out of our control,” both she, Fox and the other members of the school climate committee have been trying to infuse the school with positivity.

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