Students at schools in Mercer County are getting to unwrap gifts from the community, thanks to a social media-based campaign to supply classrooms.
“The kids get to open them up. It’s like Christmas,” said Michelle Diaz, who teaches fourth- and sixth-grade math and science at Oakview Elementary School at West Middlesex Area School District.
Diaz is among the teachers who have joined a Facebook group called “Adopt A Mercer County Teacher.”
Joyce Cannone, a retired teacher, created the group on Aug. 31 to help those still in the field. Cannone, a Farrell native, moved to Venice, Fla., about eight years ago with her husband Rich.
But she still feels a connection to the Shenango Valley and Mercer County.
The Facebook group Cannone established has more than 900 members, including teachers who live and work in Mercer County, and donors who have been sending packages with items from the teachers’ Amazon wish lists.
“I wish I could help them all,” said Cannone, who taught at Farrell, Sharpsville and in Boca Raton, Fla., and with Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV, based in Grove City.
Cannone still keeps in touch with folks back in the Shenango Valley, and when she saw a news story about a teacher from a Texas teacher who used social media to help her colleagues, Cannone knew she could support local teachers from afar.
That #ClearTheList campaign inspired Cannone to start the “Adopt A Mercer County Teacher” group, where teachers can post lists of classroom needs, which range from books and crafts to Chromebook accessories and gift cards that can be used to buy larger items.
Cannone knows first-hand that teachers often spend their own money to buy supplies, and the COVID-19 pandemic has created a need for additional classroom materials.
She said creating a Facebook group was the easiest and fastest way for her to spread the word, and she’s been excited to see how well it’s been working out.
Some teachers have had their entire wish list filled, and area teachers have said people are eager to help.
Some of the wish-list items are things that school districts don’t typically fund, like air purifiers and microphones that allow students to hear teachers more clearly, even through masks.
“It warms my heart. I just wanted to help,” Cannone said.
For students, the donations help to improve the classroom experience for the students as they return to school under pandemic restrictions.
“I think it’s really nice,” said Reagan Diaz, who is in sixth grade at Oakview.
One of her classmates, Makenna McConnell, said the class is glad to have more books because the students enjoy reading.
Cannone recommends that the teachers have the packages sent to their schools.
Diaz and Hollie Zinkham, who teaches fourth- and sixth-grade language arts and social studies at Oakview, said students love getting the deliveries.
“My Amazon teacher wish list was nothing but books,” Zinkham said.
As a thank-you, Zinkham writes she writes the donor’s name in each book.
Some of their students gathered outside the school this week to show what they’ve received so far. Zinkham read from the book “Say Something” by Peter H. Reynolds.
Diaz requested Chromebook accessories, seating cushions, indoor recess items, and craft kits. Two of her students, Logan Dick and Paige Sowers, thanked those who donated the supplies.
Sixth-grader Jennifer Babcock, who is in Zinkham’s home room and her family donated some books to Zinkham’s classroom.
Jennifer said she really likes the books they selected, and she’s excited to be able to help.
Jill Barlow, who teaches math at Sharon Middle School, said the district has been amazing, but that some little things are in big demand.
Her wish list includes extra Chromebook chargers, earbuds and an air purifier.
She plans to use gift cards to buy some more expensive items, and said thanked Cannone for going the extra mile.
“It’s just been wonderful,” Barlow said.
Barlow said doesn’t know the names of those who have been buying things from her list, but she has already paid the generosity forward by sending a package to another teacher.
The Facebook group has made it easy for people to reach out and help others during a difficult time, Barlow said.
FOR MORE information or to join the group, visit “Adopt A Mercer County Teacher” on Facebook.