The following is an inspirational story told by one of our SPC College of Education students that speaks to her love of reading and the powerful influence she will have as an educator.
Uncle George instantly became an inspiration to me and my future classroom. It started as a usual Saturday morning, a late snooze (for me, 9 a.m.) and watching the clouds roll by. A fellow pre-service teacher dinged into our cohort group chat.
S.L.: Safety Harbor library is having a book sale… they have children’s books for a $1.
K.C.: Cool! I wish I could go.
With Saturdays being my only day off, I wasn’t expecting to be doing anything crazy, and Safety Harbor is quite the drive from downtown St. Petersburg. About half an hour later, another notification came from my friend.
S.L.: They’re doing discounts for teachers, I got like 40 books for $20!
I realized at this moment this was an opportunity I could not pass up! I packed a bag, called my mom, who likes books as much as I do so I figured she’d like to meet me there, and headed out the door. My instructors in the education program at St. Petersburg College, Dr. Gauweiler, Dr. Watkins, and Dr. Biggs, have instilled in us the urgency to get books when we can as teachers. So, I couldn’t miss this chance!
A Starbucks stop and some light traffic later, I reached the Safety Harbor Library Friends of the Library event. I met my mom at the curb, and we headed inside with our usual excitement for new books. As we entered the hall, I ran into another of my friends from our cohort! He must’ve seen the group chat as well. We caught up for a moment and then began filling our arms with books.
There were so many books, I could hardly believe it! Thankfully, my dad came along as well. I started pilling books in his arms that nearly reached his chin! A kind volunteer brought him a box and cleared a space on a table so I could collect more books without causing my dad any physical stress. I had a lot of books in a short amount of time.
My mom had found a couple books for me as we perused the selections. I was impressed with the amount of books that were inclusive, diverse and interesting for children. I had to get them all! Eventually, I had picked through each children’s section and was pleased with my selection. I had enough to start a small classroom library.
While I perused a bit more, just to be sure I got everything, I had a nice conversation with one of the volunteers who was talking with my dad. I had told him that I was collecting for my future classroom and that I was a future teacher. He said, “You should have said something!” He scurried off for a moment to the checkout table and returned with a sticky note. He scribbled something onto the note and slapped on to the stack of books in the box. It read “$15, CK.”
“We support our teachers,” he said. “No matter how many more books you grab, just bring this sticky note to the checkout.”
“Oh, thank you! That is far too generous,” I replied. He gave me a pat on the shoulder and wandered off to help some others browsing the books.
I found a couple more books for intermediate grades, corralled my mom from wandering the hall for a third time, and brought the box of books to the checkout. Another volunteer asked me about my books.
“Wow! You must like to read,” he said.
“Oh, these are actually for my classroom library,” I said.
“You don’t use those tablets in your class?” He asked.
“Well, my instructor has taught us to use technology as a resource,” I replied. “But I prefer actual books for students to use rather than iPads.”
“I like your philosophy. Books are so important, and I can’t stand teachers and parents just giving kids a computer,” he said.
We talked some more until it was my turn to cash out for the books. I handed the lady at the register the sticky note and proceeded to pull out my wallet. Suddenly, the gentleman I was just speaking with handed a handful of cash to the lady at the register.
“We need to take care of our teachers,” he said to her. He looked at me, “You’re going to be a great teacher one day, and I want to do what I can to get you started on a good foot. So, take this as a gift from Uncle George. He was my uncle, and before he died he told me to respect teachers and support them when you can.”
I was astonished and overwhelmed by his kindness. “Thank you,” I said. “Thank you so much. That is so very kind of you. How could I repay you?”
“Just name your classroom library after my uncle,” he said. “He would have loved that.”
So, with tears in my eyes, I gave a nod and a hug to the gentleman before carrying the box of books to my car. This is the beginning of Uncle George’s Library. A classroom library built on the foundations of kindness, generosity, and a passion for reading.
Thank you Uncle George, your kindness and your nephew’s generosity will always be remembered.