Teachers: leaders in the classroom, leaders in the community

Teachers: leaders in the classroom, leaders in the community

A few weeks ago, I had an incredible experience with teachers off the coast of New Jersey. After Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast, thousands of homes were destroyed and thousands more families and children were displaced. In the midst of tragedy, devastation, and lack of organized direction, hope began to blossom as a few teachers stepped in to help.

In Stafford, NJ, Michael Dunlea and several other teachers from his school saw a need to be filled. Starting with a small group of teachers, they began to check on staff and students. Homes that had been filled with 3 feet of bay water needed to be divested of all of their contents. Carpet, drywall and insulation that was beginning to mold, needed to be ripped out and removed. These teachers volunteered to clean out the homes of their colleagues and students’ families. It wasn’t long before piles of memories and possessions began to line the streets of the town.

Soon, other teachers, residents, and citizens like me were calling to either ask for help or ask to volunteer. Drawing on the power of social media, Michael created a YouTube video and a Facebook page to gather information and promote clean up services. Shortly thereafter, I found myself with other volunteers cleaning and removing furniture and appliances while the PTA and others prepared meals, delivering them to volunteers and residents.

While the destruction was immense and the loss profound, the word I heard over and over from those we helped was “hope.” As Michael said to me, “instilling hope is perhaps the greatest gift one can give another human who is suffering.”

Over the course of several weeks and with over 1,700 volunteers, we provided assistance to more than 500 homes and saved families around $1.2 million in construction and clean up costs. And it all started with a few teachers who had the desire to make a difference.

We all believe that teachers should excel in the classroom but the truth is, many of them possess additional skills that transform them into something more—teacher leaders. Michael, though not a Hope Street Group Teacher Fellow, possessed the very characteristics that we both look for and look to develop through our Teacher Fellows program.

We search for and develop teachers who are:

Leaders. They demonstrate the ability to work with many different types of people to promote change
Solutions-oriented. They maintain a positive attitude and hope for change despite challenges and obstacles
Good communicators. They encourage and promote others to get involved using both traditional and innovative techniques
Networkers. They understand the value of people and of being connected, that being a part of a whole can be greater than standing alone.
At Hope Street Group, we know that teachers have a unique perspective and a valuable contribution to make. They can be leaders in their communities for positive change, just like Michael and his colleagues.

Thank you Stafford teachers for taking initiative to instill hope in your community and for allowing me to be a part of those efforts.

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