Washington schools send books to South PlaqueminesJul 30th, 2010 | By Frank McCormack | Category: school news
The boxes of books began arriving at South Plaquemines High and Elementary Schools in Port Sulphur soon after the 2009-2010 school year came to a close.
Box after box, shipment after shipment, the books began to mount. And by the first of July, more than two tons of books – in excess of 11,000 books – had arrived.
The books came from Washington, where teachers and students in that state had been working for months to collect books to send south to the New Orleans area, where a group of teachers would be attending the National Education Association’s annual convention.
“Several months ago we decided we wanted to do something to leave a positive impact,” said Eddie Westerman, spokesperson for the Washington Education Association (WEA). “We thought it would be fun to go outside of New Orleans.”
Westerman and the Washington Education Assocation publicized their idea.
“We thought whoever jumped first, we’d go to them,” Westerman said.
And as it turned out, 10th grade South Plaquemines High School English teacher Jennifer Dotson jumped first, responding to Westerman that SPHS would be delighted to receive the books.
“I thought maybe we’d get a couple hundred books,” Dotson said. “Their goal was 5,000.”
Westerman spread the word that they were looking for books to send to Port Sulphur, La., a small town that had been destroyed by Hurricane Katrina almost five years prior.
In no time, the books began to pour in. In no time, WEA far exceeded its target number.
Tim Brittel, president of the Northshore Education Association in Washington, said his district alone collected close to 4,000 books. One junior high school sent more than 1,200.
“It became a force that took on a life of its own,” Brittel said. “Like all teachers, we spend thousands of dollars out of our own pockets. We’re good at sharing when people need something.”
Books were donated from individuals, classrooms and libraries. The books ranged across all subjects and grade levels. And then there were the special requests.
“My 10th grade students wrote letters at the request of the WEA concerning books they’d like to have at their disposal, both in the classroom and in the library,” Dotson explained. “They bought my kids specifically what was asked for, and I know they’re going to be impressed when school starts.”
Dotson said her students especially liked works of nonfiction about teenagers, especially those who have gone through similar hardships. She also said students enjoyed reading about pop culture topics like vampires and sports.
Dotson’s own personal stash of books for her classroom included The Diary of Anne Frank, American Traditions in Literature, To Kill A Mockingbird and The Sound and The Fury.
Teachers and students from South Plaquemines High and Elementary Schools met at the school July 2 to unpack and sort the 11,000 books.
“It’s like Christmas morning. This is better than Christmas,” said kindergarten teacher Kelley Fontaine.
Elementary School Assistant Principal Tonika Peavy said the plan was to set the books out and then let teachers peruse the stacks before school starts back up later in the summer.
“Whatever is left on the first day of school, we’ll let each child pick one for themselves,” Peavy said. “It’s very important that people read to their kids because as they read to them it boosts their vocabulary.”
A couple dozen teachers from Washington made it out to SPHS July 2 to help unpack the boxes they’d sent. And with teachers from both Washington and Port Sulphur working together, one by one, the 11,000 books finally made it to their new homes, whether in the classroom, library or in a student’s home.