In January, Brooke Powers, then a Lexington middle school teacher, was named one of the best educators in the nation and awarded the $25,000 Milken Award.
The former teacher at Beaumont Middle School recently took a new job as Community Manager at Open Up Resources, a not-for-profit education company that provides free curriculum for schools, so she could help more teachers and students across the country and to spend more time with her own children.
Powers, who plans to return to teaching, is getting married on New Years Eve. Rather than registering for wedding gifts, she and her fiancee Kevin Cronin selected four teachers in the United States and asked them to register for school supplies and books for their underprivileged students.
“I decided to do this because I really miss being in the classroom and helping kids directly,” Powers said. “I am used to spending my summer gathering school supplies, snacks, clothing, and other things that kids may need. “
She said she sent supplies to teachers across the country who mentioned on social media that they needed supplies and then, she and her fiancee realized that they didn’t need wedding gifts.
“My fiancee and I are older and have all the household things we need and to register for gifts just for the sake of registering for new things didn’t feel right so I asked him if he would be OK with letting teachers register for supplies instead,” Powers told the Herald-Leader.
Powers said Cronin “loved the idea” because his mom is a retired public school teacher.
Powers provides training to Fayette County math teachers, and through her blog called Powersfulmath, to educators nationwide. She and Cronin selected teachers they knew and let them choose anything they thought would help their classroom.
”I was really taken aback by it ,” said Christine Stenzel Jarvis, a kindergarten teacher at Lexington’s Deep Springs Elementary who has already received crayons and glue sticks. “I thought ‘Wow, that is such a gracious act.’ I thought it was an incredible thing that they did because we have a lot of students here that are unable to bring in supplies. ‘’
Kristen Lents, a teacher at Harris Academy, an alternative high school in the Indianapolis area, is asking for a dry erase table. She said in an interview that “I’m humbled that she picked me as one of the people that she wanted to create ... a wish list of supplies that we normally wouldn’t be able to have.”
In Milo, Iowa, Kendra Keller, Powers’ cousin, teaches second grade at Southeast Warren Elementary School, a rural school with low-income students. She has asked for alternative classroom seating such as a couch and beanbag chairs because “research shows alternative seating can increase focus.”
Powers said Erin Sienicki, a teacher at Schroeder High School in Cincinnati let her high school students pick a book that they would like to take home and keep.. A homeless student, asked by his teacher what he appreciated most about the past week, replied that it was “the three books that we are getting” from Powers’ wedding registry.
“It was shocking and sad how many kids had never had a book all their own,” Powers told the Herald-Leader. “I so desperately want to give each and everyone of these kids and teachers the supplies, books, and materials they need to be successful and hopefully let them feel special.”
Powers asked people to sign on to their wedding gift registry, select an item and send them to her so she can distribute them.
“There is no better way to show us you love us and care about us than to support our mission to provide materials for these public school children,” she told readers of her blog.