As teachers prepared to go back to the classroom last month, Valrico resident Brooke Elkins wanted to give them a helping hand. What started as a small kindness quickly grew and within a week more than 6,500 people were involved.
Elkins, who has taught at both Mintz and Stowers elementary schools, started the Facebook group Adopt a Hillsborough Teacher, which gives teachers the opportunity to post items they need for their classrooms and residents the chance to easily buy them.
“Our teachers are going through an unprecedented time,” said Elkins. “Teachers are feeling frustrated and unsupported and I felt like this was a small way the community could show support.”
Educators from all over Hillsborough County learned about the group and started posting items from cleaning supplies to voice magnifiers.
“The start of this year is not like any most of us have experienced before and we know there are very difficult decisions being made by parents, teachers, admin and our leaders downtown,” said Buckhorn Elementary School’s fifth grade ELA teacher, Tiffany Schreffler. “This program helps serve as a reminder that giving each child their best chance at learning is still a top priority to all those in education.”
Many teachers posted links to Amazon Wish Lists and within hours residents had purchased the much-needed supplies.
“It’s been a little overwhelming trying to think of all the things we need to make our classroom run successfully during these unprecedented times,” said Renee LaBarbera, who teaches at Bevis Elementary School. “Even just making the list made me feel better and helped me to realize that I can make these tiny adjustments to help the school day be just a little bit safer for my students and myself.”
Teachers assigned to eLearning classes also requested items to help students transition to the new style of learning.
“Teachers are working extremely hard to be better prepared for this unique school year whether that be in the classroom or via Zoom,” said Randall Middle School math teacher Chris Wikfors. “With so many unknowns, this is such a huge help not only financially, but also for our mindsets. Knowing we have the support of so many in our communities is a great feeling as we head into uncharted waters.”
Anyone interested in sponsoring a teacher can find the group on Facebook by searching ‘Adopt a Hillsborough Teacher.’