It was all in the pictures, in the smiles of the teachers and children. Nobility, thy name is Carol Brinkley. And Catherine Stelpflug. And JeLynn Crane. And you other teachers and assistants and volunteers from Lacy Elementary School who load up your books in your cars and go to apartment complexes with those donated books and help children, often lower-income and sometimes speaking Spanish and other foreign languages as a first language. All of you, take a bow.
You won’t, because you don’t do it for the credit. You do it because you worry about kids in the early grades losing reading skills they’ve learned over the summer. And so there you are, in the hot days of July, loading your blankets and the books in your cars and setting off for places like the Grand Arbor Reserve apartment complex in West Raleigh, across Lake Boone Trail from Lacy, a place with a diverse population of young kids. Wow, those kids are glad to see you, running to the blankets and eagerly picking up the books and getting all of you to help them read.
The apartment complex gained some self-inflicted and decidedly unwelcome notoriety last week when the book effort was banned. The complex management said the volunteers couldn’t help the kids anymore because only events sponsored by the corporate parent could be held on the grounds. So the teachers were banned.
The story was reported by The News & Observer and included pictures of teachers such as Carol Brinkley and Catherine Stelpflug with eager children. The complex and its parent company, Landmark Apartment Trust, looked, one might say, like a combination of the Grinch and the Big Bad Wolf. After some hours, Landmark relented and welcomed the reading program back.
Just as an aside, Landmark could do more. Say, set up some chairs, provide refreshments, maybe help the teachers find more books. The goof was big, the response was quick. But more could be done.
The real point here, though, is to recognize and salute these teachers and Lacy volunteers for doing something for kids, something they don’t have to do, in their precious time off. It’s time public school teachers desperately need to help them recuperate from the year past and to charge up for the one ahead. And they do it for no recognition. Had it not been for the dust-up with the apartment complex, they would have gone quietly about their business seeking no credit and getting none.
Their profession has taken some pounding from a Republican-run General Assembly offering paltry (and politically expedient) raises for some teachers while cutting teacher assistants. Yet these teachers, and doubtless thousands of others in Wake County and across North Carolina, keep going the extra mile, keep helping kids, especially those who need it most, climb those learning hills.
Why in the world do they do it? Because they are special people, dedicated and compassionate and determined to be that teacher who makes a difference in a child’s life.
What can be said? Teachers, thank you for the work you do and especially for the work you don’t have to do.