Teacher pays it forward for teacher appreciation week

Tara Karch’s efforts brought smiles and tears of appreciation to another school’s educators.

In June, College Park resident Tara Karch was recognized for her efforts in collecting supplies for teachers during teacher appreciation week. The catch? Karch is a teacher, and it was her own gifts she was giving away.

Karch, who teaches fourth grade at Thornebrooke Elementary School, established a partnership between her school and Mollie Ray Elementary to benefit teachers and students at both schools. “Typically they shower us at Thornebrooke when it’s teacher appreciation week,” she said. “We get gift cards and flowers and everything under the sun. And it’s beautiful and it’s wonderful, but it’s more than I need.”

So Karch asked her families at Thornebrooke — many of whom are fairly affluent — to bring in school supplies to donate to Mollie Ray, which serves more economically disadvantaged students. The result? Karch put together 11 bags of school supplies for teachers at Mollie Ray.

That was last year.

This year, Karch got her entire school involved. “My principal supported it, and I put it out to all the teachers,” she said. “I had teachers from every grade level, administration and support staff all collaborating.”

All in all, Thornebrooke put together 38 bags for Mollie Ray.

“With those efforts this year, we were able to put together a bag for every teacher, paraprofessional [and] specials teacher on Mollie Ray’s roster,” said Jennifer Dunagan, a math and science coach at Mollie Ray who coordinated the partnership with Karch.

“They were just in tears,” Dunagan said of the teachers who received the bags. “They were moved that a teacher would go out of their way for a teacher at a school that they’re not even a part of.”

Karch said her students also benefitted from the program, because it was so rewarding for them to see the piles of gifts go to actual students and teachers at another school. “The gift of giving gives the students at the giving school a really important and powerful lesson,” she said. “So everybody actually wins.”

Thornebrook recognized Karch with a luncheon at the end of the school year. She said she was surprised, honored and grateful that the program was being recognized. But it was such a collaborative effort among all the teachers at her school that she was glad to share the celebration.

Although the partnership already more than tripled its reach in the past year, Karch and Dunagan want to see it grow even more. “I hope every year to expand it,” Karch said. “My dream would be to see other schools in the county form such partnerships.”

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