Eagle Point teacher works to level playing field

Eagle Point Elementary teacher Laurie Sasson's children delivers a care package to a family.

Teacher Appreciation Week is usually a time for students and families to thank educators with kind words or tokens of appreciation. But for Laurie Sasson, an English as a New Language (ENL) teacher at Eagle Point Elementary, that role was reversed this year. 

“We sometimes take for granted the most simple things and forget that some children don't have a book to read or a game to play, or even paper and pencil.”

Following the district closure of all academic buildings in March, Sasson applied for and received a Keep Kids Learning grant via Donors Choose, an online charity that funds classroom projects, events and supplies. The 25-year veteran educator was chosen and received $1000 in Wal-Mart gift cards to assist her students with virtual instruction. With the money, she purchased dry erase boards, markers, notebooks, pencils, gluesticks, Mad Libs, crafts and educational games - all items her students, refugees and immigrants, have access to when school is in session but might not now since all learning is virtual. 

“Not everyone has the luxury of a shelf full of books and games.  We sometimes take for granted the most simple things and forget that some children don't have a book to read or a game to play, or even paper and pencil.”

Sasson and her own children - a Stephen and Harriet Myers seventh grader and Montessori Magnet fifth grader - packed up the care packages and delivered them (in masks and from a safe distance) at the end of Teacher Appreciation week. In all, 25 Eagle Point ENL students (14 families) received the items.

“I am not sure who was more excited - my students, my children or me.  Everyone was so appreciative and they could not believe that the teacher would come to the house, especially for something good.”

Sasson believes that for many of her students, school is a lifeline - not just education and food but also love and support. She didn’t want that to end when the school everyone was accustomed to was no longer, especially since so many of her families already feel isolated in a new and different country.

“Being an ENL teacher isn't about teaching subjects or even teaching English.  It is about making a difference in our families lives.  It is about making them feel welcome and loved - every day, no matter what.  Our schools are an extended family, and like all families we are there for each other, especially when times are tough.”

According to the Donors Choose website, more than 5000 teachers across the country have been connected to funding thanks to the Keep Kids Learning grants, which have been funded by more than 10,000 individuals and corporate and foundation partners. 

“It was a nice way to end Teacher Appreciation Week.  Sometimes we get all caught up in the paperwork and logistics of what we do and lose focus.  The only good things about teaching/learning from home is that it lets us focus on what matters most - the students.”