In praise of fine young teachers

Amy & student

My niece Amy is a heroine. That is to say, she’s a teacher. In New Orleans. In a charter school in a low-income district. She moved to New Orleans to work with Teach for America three days before Katrina hit. She was evacuated to Houston, then Hurricane Rita hit. She was evacuated back to Baton Rouge and worked for FEMA for three months before she returned to New Orleans and in January 2006, started working at O. Perry Walker High School, one of the first schools to reopen in the city.

Amy is a 9th grade reading interventionist. Her Teach for America contract expired, but she was too committed to the city and the kids in her school to leave. 75% of the students at Walker are reading below grade level, so for five years she has worked with them to instill good reading habits, to actually read those scary three and four-syllable words, and to develop a love for books.

Donors Choose happy receivers

Donors Choose is one of Amy’s favorite organizations, and being a child of the internet, she’s all over this new online giving tool.  Started by Charles Best, who appears to be about fifteen, Donors Choose is an incredibly addictive site that enables public school teachers to post their classroom needs, viewers to choose what projects they’d like to help fund, and a staff to purchase and deliver the materials once the goal is reached.

Amy has had three proposals (for books) funded by Donors Choose and claims that it’s like facebook now – her donors leave messages, write back to see how the kids like the books, and are totally engaged. I spent an ungodly amount of time on the site, looking at projects I would love to fund, until Amy told me that Rob Corvo, a fellow teacher at Walker teaching AP United States Government & Politics for the first time, is seeking 13 copies of a supplemental text for his Advanced Placement “newbies.”You can read about his project at:

Amy in action

These are AP students in a school in which 40% of the families have under $24,000 in household income. The cost for the books is $550. Bill & Melinda Gates are kicking in half, but there’s another $197 to go. Today, on Amy’s birthday, those 13 AP students will need just $97 to get the books they need. So…do I hear $50??