Labor of Love
By Dave Arnold
I don’t know of any school employee who doesn’t love children. This heartfelt emotion is not a government standard or requirement for work at a school district. It is simply a bonus to students and parents that most educators bring to school every day.
For example, a fourth grade teacher at my elementary school in Brownstown, Illinois, is a treasure. She was described in our local newspaper, The Vandalia Leader Union, as having “a heart as big as all outdoors.”
What Casie Bowman did for some of the school’s needy students was colossal and grand and sincere.
The story began in 2012 when Casie noticed how anxious many students were as they stood in the cafeteria line. After some inquires, Casie learned that school lunch was the only hot meal that many students were enjoying on a daily basis. She dug some more and found out that many of their parents worked evenings and weekends. As is the case for many of our nation’s children, Casie found out that many of them were home alone fending for themselves.
This would not do. Casie decided to approach local churches to raise money for food and snacks that students could carry home and easily prepare without safety problems. She then bought some backpacks and was able to get a local store to donate even more.
Casie received permission from school administrators and rallied teachers to help divide the food and place it in the backpacks. The “foodpacks” were aimed at students who qualified for free or reduced lunches and who received permission from their parents.
Casie’s program became an instant success and started growing. But that created funding concerns. Casie then spread the word to more churches for help. Every time it looked like she was going to fall short, money miraculously came in.
It remains unproven whether the extra nutrition has made a difference in students’ grades, but I can attest that the foodpacks have motivated some students to not miss school.
When one student was sick with the flu, her prime concern was that she wouldn’t get her foodpack for the weekend. When Casie got word of the little girl’s worries she personally delivered a backpack to the girl’s residence. If that isn’t showing love for a student then I certainly don’t know what is.
As last summer approached, Casie once again showed that her love for children doesn’t end at the school doors. She spoke with local churches and got one of them to deliver foodpacks to the students’ homes each week during summer.
I’m certain most schools have teachers and education support professionals (ESPs) as loving and caring as Casie Bowman. That is why America’s schools are so successful. Our educators care about the whole child, their physical and emotional as well as academic needs. We educate the whole person.
Creating foodpacks is not in Casie’s job description. Rules and regulations is not what motivates her and the countless others working in out nation’s schools. It is the children. We want them to succeed in whatever life’s path they choose after graduation. Fortunately, educators like Casie are on the job to help insure that they do.
(Dave Arnold, a member of the Illinois Education Association, is a custodian at Brownstown Elementary School in southern Illinois. He can be contacted at email@example.com.)
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NEA or its affiliates.
Dave Arnold: This school custodian and former Illinois Education Association ESP of the Year is a published poet. But most Association members know him best from the editorials -- Dave's View --