East Maine School District 63 teachers rally to send art supplies to 2,500 students' homes

DES PLAINES, Ill. (WLS) -- The pandemic brought art teachers at different elementary schools in East Maine School District 63 closer together.

They realized they each faced the same challenge: how to make a hands-on class like art virtual.

"We thought, we've gotta rally and we've gotta help each other get through this somehow," Tina Daskalopoulos said.

Starting last spring, Daskalopulos, Rick Karmik, Andrew Hancock, Monica Larson and a fifth teacher Juli Kim met virtually once a week. The sessions were helpful both professionally and personally, especially for Tina, whose husband and daughter contracted COVID at one point.

"For my own social and emotional healing, I could not have done it without knowing I had this once a week connection," she said.

The group searched for deals on art supplies the district could buy in bulk and had so much that Larson asked her colleagues to help with bagging them up for students.

"The kids were just ... they were cheering on the screen," she recalled. "And when we told them they didn't have to give them back, it was like Christmas. Like they won't the lottery."

A total of 2,500 students in the district received the art supplies and the teachers said they noticed a greater output of creativity.

"They're cherishing it, like, this is gonna sustain them," Daskalopulos said. "And in many ways, it has."

With this being Teacher Appreciation Week, this is one of the countless stories of how teachers have gone above and beyond the challenge of motivating their students during the pandemic. They're hopeful next year, they'll have more time face to face with their students.

"Here's to almost the end of the school year and getting though it," Hancock said. "And next year hopefully we'll see a little more normalcy as long as we're safe."
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