Destin Middle School’s cafeteria smelled like freshly-popped popcorn as fifth graders crowded the concessions table, vying for a soda and snack. Upbeat music boomed from the loud speakers coupled with a cacophony of excited voices ready to start dancing.
On Friday afternoon, Destin Middle School’s English and Language Arts department sponsored the Fifth Grade Valentine’s Day Social as a fundraiser so the school can buy more chapter books for classrooms.
"We love good literature," said Leah McGill, who has taught elementary school for 25 years and helped start the fifth grade program at Destin Middle School 10 years ago. "With the money raised, we’ll be able to buy more classroom sets of chapter books for the kids."
McGill took the cafeteria stage to introduce two professional dancers from Luna Ballroom, Israel Borges and Violet Monroe, who came to teach the kids how to do the dance to the popular party song "Cupid Shuffle."
Borges and Monroe are ballroom dance partners in real life who focus mostly on Latin-styles of dance.
"We dance every day," said Monroe, who is from Fairhope, Alabama. "We try and get a couple hours a day in to practice ourselves and then we also teach classes, so we’re dancing for up to eight hours on most days."
McGill spent a few minutes on stage trying to corral students to the dance floor.
"Welcome to the fifth grade Valentine’s Social and since I’m speaking in a microphone, I need everyone to turn around and stop. Freeze," said McGill, waiting for the room to quiet down before kicking of the festivities. "I need everyone to put their hands together for Violet and Israel from the Luna Ballroom!"
The kids cheered for Borges and Monroe as they danced on stage and counted off "five, six, seven, eight" so students could follow along as they taught the dance steps.
Two practice rounds later and three more rounds accompanied by the "Cupid Shuffle" song blaring directional instructions, "to the right, to the right, to the right, to the right, to the left to the left, to the left, to the left, now kick, now kick, now kick, now kick, now walk it by yourself," the Cupid Shufflers took a snack break.
According to 11-year-old Gabby Ianni, the Valentine’s Social was a hit.
"It’s awesome!" The best part about it is the food," Ianni said.
Friends Lilly Rudd, Rylee Hatten and Gabby Kruse agreed, chiming in that the Cupid Shuffle was "fun."
McGill buzzed around the cafeteria, making sure everyone was having fun participating and even did the Cupid Shuffle in the front row with students.
"After this we have a cake walk, and limbo," said McGill, who said she will likely teach until she "can’t physically be here anymore."