“I taught school for nearly 26 years, and my heart is with all teachers this year,” former Itawamba Agricultural High School educator Lori Holland wrote in a recent Facebook post.

Compassionate empathy best describes the retired schoolteacher’s feelings concerning faculty and friends facing a return to the classroom during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. It was those feelings that led her to reach out on social media with a project to help her alma mater and former fellow faculty at IAHS with much-needed supplies, particularly those meant to help stifle the spread of the virus among students and teachers.

Holland’s initial post for what she christened the Adopt a Teacher project quickly filled with responses from individuals and groups who wanted to help meet the needs of local educators. She partnered donors with teachers, coaches, the school nurse … even the guidance counselor … to get educators whatever special supplies they need for the unusual upcoming school year.

“I’ve had a great response from individuals, civic organizations, church groups, and businesses,” she said. “I believe if people know there is a need, they will be willing to step up.”

Besides items like cleaning products and masks, Holland has suggested donors supply their partnered educators with items such as snacks for teachers who may have less time for breaks amid the cleaning of classrooms and other added responsibilities.

According to Holland, the need is probably greater than most people expect.

“It’s common for grade school students to have a supply list for their classroom at local businesses, but high schools do not,” Holland told The Times. “I wanted to do something to help. It’s where I spent most of my time teaching, and it’s like a second home.”

Holland said teachers will face expenditures this year that go far beyond the Education Enhancement Fund (EEF) money that is given per classroom.

“That money barely covers needs such as ink cartridges for a printer,” she said. “This year teachers will need things like an extra face mask, paper towels, and hand sanitizer. The district will do well to get all they need. This is something we all can do to help.”

When school begins session, she plans to reach out to faculty to fill out a form with other specific needs they might need in the classroom since the Adopt a Teacher project will span the length of the school year.

“I’ll be getting a form to the teachers for more information, like their birthday and a list of the things they like and provide it for the sponsor,” she said. “This coming year is the 100th birthday of the high school, and what better way to celebrate than by doing something special and much needed for the teachers?”

While Holland’s heart lies with the home of her former classroom, she is hoping the idea will catch on throughout the district. She’s had several inquiries about adopting teachers at other schools. At press time, she had only a handful of IAHS faculty names left to adopt.

“I’d like to challenge each community to step up and start this at their school,” she said. “My hope is this will go district-wide and hopefully be a trend in the years ahead.”

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