KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Pearl Mayanja would do anything to be in a classroom with her students. She teaches fifth grade at Kansas City Girls Preparatory Academy in Kansas City, Missouri.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the school is totally virtual this semester. Which means Mayanja works from her apartment and interacts with students via webcam.
“It is impersonal. It is hard,” Mayanja admitted. “It feels like there is a gap that is becoming extremely just more intense.”
Mayanja has never met her students face to face. KC Girls Preparatory Academy is only in its second year and so far only serves fifth and sixth grade students.
Still, Mayanja forges on. She became a teacher because she wanted to make a positive impact on her community.
“I truly do this work because I love kids,” she said straightforward.
Corey Scholes said teachers like Mayanja need a boost in morale now more than ever.
Scholes is a director of education at Kansas City-based Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. The philanthropic organization supports teachers through a variety of programs, like Kansas City Teacher Residency.
Around this time every year, the foundation hosts a big celebration for teachers called “Energize.” Limits on gatherings due to COVID-19 made Energize impossible this year.
So Scholes came up with an alternative idea.
She created 400 care packages for teachers. They include sweet treats, a face mask, a stadium cup, words of encouragement and more. This week, teachers will receive the care packages in the mail as part of what the Kauffman Foundation calls its “KC Hearts Teachers” program.
“I just think recognizing teachers and letting them know our city stands behind our educators is important,” Scholes said.
Friday, Scholes surprised Mayanja in person with her care package. The delivery was particularly special because Scholes was Mayanja’s middle school principal.
She said she’s so proud of her former student for becoming a teacher.
“I love her and watching her teach today has been incredible,” Scholes said.
Mayanja said she was truly surprised, shocked and blown away. She said the care package might be full of little gifts, but it makes a big statement.
“You do these things every day and they’re hard and you feel unrecognized and sometimes you feel undervalued, but you still persist and then actually having something of this magnitude come to my house, I am just so ecstatic,” Mayanja said while smiling.
Each care package includes a postcard on which the recipient can write an encouraging message to a school administrator. Scholes said the idea is to pay it forward and build up educators across the Kansas City area.
The Kauffman Foundation invites everyone to join its “KC Hearts Teachers” program by using the hashtag #TeachKC on social media when posting a picture of a teacher, a story about a teacher or a positive message to teachers.
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