Christmas came a couple months early for the teachers of Wilmington’s EastSide Charter School Thursday.
School Chief Executive Officer Aaron Bass, the school’s eagle mascot and volunteers from Barclays popped into rooms rolling a speaker blasting “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” as they dropped off gifts to 45 different classrooms.
Teachers often make Amazon wish lists each year to collect donations in order to pay for classroom supplies or materials that they would normally have to pay out-of-pocket for.
For the first time, Barclays – which has had a partnership with EastSide for years to both financially support the school and create a mentorship program – collected funds to fulfill each teacher’s wish list.
“These kinds of gifts I would not be able to afford in this classroom without this kind of significant assistance,” said Yvonne Thomas, who teaches sixth-graders and just started her second year at EastSide.
Her favorite item she received was a big bean chair for students to sit on.
“Sometimes the students who come into my classroom need to relax or settle or calm down, and this will help,” said Thomas, who teaches students with special needs.
Barclays wanted to relieve the stress and financial burden of teachers.
This meant not only giving items they need to teach, but also items they want for their class in order to create a better learning environment.
Relief for EastSide teachers
“Even if it’s just a portion of the supplies, it just offers some relief for our educators,” said Peri Hutt, senior paralegal vice president at Barclays. “Some of the supplies are maybe not a need but a want, which still helps limit the amount of money teachers are paying out of their own pockets to fill the classroom.”
Teachers were asked to submit their wish lists by Aug. 31, so Santa’s Factory – aka the gym of EastSide – was getting package after package delivered the past two weeks.
Each wish list hovered around $300 in cost.
Employees from Barclays, a global financial company, created fundraising teams to pay for the gifts.
“There might be other stuff that they would like to do or like to introduce to the class, but they just don’t have the resources in which to do so,” Hutt said. “This is enabling them to do so.”
On top of the expected necessary supplies like pencils, pens, markers, crayons, books, notebooks, boxes were also filled with gifts like legos, toy cash registers, games and more fun items for the class.
Mary Shenko, a special education teacher who has 27 years of teaching experience, said this is the first time she’s been able to focus on not just her needs, but wants for the classroom.
“This is the first time I had such an extensive dollar sign I could utilize and order what I wanted,” she said, “without there being criticism or rules on what I can and can’t ask for.”
Her favorite item she received is professional portfolios for each of her students, which she says will help them stay organized. Each one has paper, binders and dividers. Since she teaches 11 students, getting each one a nice portfolio would have cost her hundreds.
Shenko was also gifted with a colorful area rug of a map of America.
“There’s so many expenses for teachers, even the color pen, pencils or markers can be so pricey,” she said. “I am just so grateful and feel such a sense of gratitude, appreciation and love.”
Raised in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, Jarek earned a B.A. in journalism and a B.A. in political science from Temple University in 2021. After running CNN’s Michael Smerconish’s YouTube channel, Jarek became a reporter for the Bucks County Herald before joining Delaware LIVE News.
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