Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Other People Who Inspire

I have written about the "stories" of people at Chets Creek who inspire me every day.  I am fortunate to be surrounded by incredible people whose lives impact my heart. I have still another group that have touched me and all of our school community is such special ways...

Liz works with families
Liz Duncan is a National Board Certified Special Education teacher at Chets Creek with a strong moral compass.  Even though she cares about teaching, she cares even more about doing the right thing for the children whose lives touch hers.  Her own personal mission collided with our school mission when several years ago our school recognized an under served population of children in our attendance area.  Our leadership team made a conscious decision to make a difference in the lives of the children in that specific area.  We met with the community's home  owners and agreed on a small space where we could offer tutoring free of service in the community.  Teachers volunteer their time for tutoring.  Of course, as we began to tutor we began to meet families every week bringing and picking up their kids. It didn't take long to realize that the need was so much more than tutoring.  We began to help with small projects (covering windows with plastic to keep out the cold, power washing homes, delivering food, looking for English classes for second language adults, providing clothes and household furniture and goods...), but it was soon evident that we needed a more comprehensive plan to meet the need.  Liz led our efforts and soon worked through church contacts (Beach Church and the Church of Eleven 22) to reach the McKenzie Noelle Wilson Foundation.  They agreed to become partners in funding a comprehensive program within that community. While that in and of itself is remarkable, it's not the end of the story.  It was just the beginning.

The MARC serves Chets students.
Soon it was evident that the program had grown into more than we had imagined and the Wilson Foundation was interested in using the model for city wide expansion.  We needed a teacher liaison to act as our school go-between to make this massive dream come true.  None of us knew if this would work or what a job like this would look like. What would it pay? Would the job have benefits? Could the county negotiate a contract with a non-profit? Even with all the uncertainty Liz was willing to step out in faith and say, "I'm willing. Use me."  Who does that?  Obviously someone who cares deeply and is so committed that she actively listened for the call and then acted.  Certainly, as expected, there have been bumps in the road as the program has grown and changed. but when I think of the children and families that have been helped, whose lives have been changed, it humbles me deeply.  Somewhere along the way Liz even opened her home to "angel baby," a child who needed a family that is with her still. The MARC (McKenzie Academic Resource Center) is an example of full service comprehension programming through a grass roots effort, the dream of a small group of educators to make a difference in the lives of the children that sit in their classrooms.  Liz so inspires me because she wasn't content to sit around and just talk about the need.  She stepped up. She saw the need, and she responded.

We wore purple t-shirts all year to support Miss Pat.
Miss Pat and Ralph Thomas are also part of our Chets family.  They inspire us all.  Ralph is a 70-year old custodian at Chets and is an Amazon of a man who affectionately high fives every kid he sees.  His wife, Miss Pat, is our head custodian.  They came to us after escaping the flooding of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.  They lost everything.  As if one tragedy in a lifetime isn't enough, last year Miss Pat was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer... What I expected was gloom and doom but what I saw was a woman with a smile and an extra skip in her step.  Even on her worst days, she was at school smiling and even dancing her way through the hallways. Check out the faculty's video to lift her spirits. We wroe purple shirts all year to honor Ms. Pat and to remind her to "let the good times roll!" She is now cancer free but she has taught me that when you have faith, nothing, and I do mean nothing, can really keep you down.  She knows that attitude is simply a choice you choose each day. The children (and adults!) in our building know her and love her and have her remarkable example to emulate.  I am so much better because I have watched Miss Pat live her daily life and face her trials with joyous faith and thansgiving.

Karen Morris is another of the remarkable people that call Chets Creek home.  She is a second grade, second career teacher who co-teaches with... her sister!  Together they are two of the most gracious women that I know.  They are always thoughtful and the first to volunteer if there is someone in need.  I have watched them with awe and learn from their example every day.  What I love about Karen is that she saw a need in our school and a way to meet the need and then did something about it.  As a teacher you can't help but notice when a child outgrows his clothes, when the pants are a little too high and the long sleeves barely cover the elbows, when clothes begin to fade and have rips and tears that go unmended.  You know when you have to glue the soles together of a child's tennis shoes that these are often signs that a family is stressed.  Maybe the crisis is temporary or maybe it is chronic, but nonetheless, the child is in need. He can't really learn while he is carrying such a heavy burden. As those things happen, teachers at our school, on a very regular basis go out and buy clothes for needy children or go through their own child's closet to find clothes that no longer fit or sometimes put the word out to other colleagues with kids about the same size.

2015 Clothes Drive at Chets Creek
But Karen decided to do more than just hit and miss.  Instead she decided to organize an annual clothes drive.  Children all grow out of their clothes and often the clothes are still in very good condition, so why not gather all those clothes together in an organized fashion and then redistribute the clothes, allowing families at Chets to come and get what they need? That's exactly what Karen began to do several years ago.  Once a year she organizes a week long clothes drive that ends with a Saturday shopping day.  Karen has corralled  a faithful group of friends and PTA volunteers to sort through all the donated clothes (no small task) and to be there on Saturday. On Saturday morning every table in our over-sized Dining Room is loaded with clothes, divided by size and gender.  There is even a section for household goods and books.  The line of those waiting is out the door!  What I love about Karen is that she didn't just see a problem, but she did something about it that has bettered the lives of so many.

I am sure in every school there are people like these who walk the talk, people who live their lives in such a way that you are somewhat in awe.  Don't get me wrong, they are not perfect people who have perfect lives, and they would be the first to tell you that, but they are people who choose to live their lives with integrity and in service to others.  Can we ask for better role models for our children?

1 comment:

Kk Cherney said...

Right on sister. Perfectly said