PARKLAND, FL - Teacher Appreciation Week at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is especially meaningful this year.
What started out as a bat mitzvah project for Stacie Boyar's 12-year-old daughter, Skylar, became a service project to show Marjory Stoneman Douglas teachers love and support following the February 14 tragedy. The project received an overwhelming response from friends and national donors.
On Wednesday, all Marjory Stoneman Douglas teachers will receive personalized gift bags filled with doses of comfort and adoration, packed by students Blake Boyar, 15, Skylar Boyar, 12, Ella Singer, 15, and Lily Singer, 13. The tote bags will be distributed after school to teachers and support staff personnel.
Blake and her sister, Skylar, attend North Broward Preparatory School, although Blake described that she has "connections to many of the victims" because she attended Westglades Middle School last year. "I liked that I was able to help in some way following February 14, even though I am not a student at MSD."
The girls' mother, Stacie, a local mental health professional and educator, named the project "ARMing Teachers with Love," and recruited the help of her friend and fellow educator, Kimberly Singer. The moms, and their daughters, utilized social media via Facebook and Instagram to ask for donations from friends and businesses around the country. When asked how long it took to receive donations, the two mothers responded in unison: "immediately." Weeks later, nearly $10,000 in product donations filled their living rooms.
Via the networking site LinkedIn, a mutual friend of Stacie and Kimberly procured Origami Owl necklaces that read "MSD Strong." Kimberly's husband, David, reached out to food vendors. The maroon tote bags read "#armingteacherswithlove," and are filled with bath salts, candles, soaps, jewelry, lip balm, candy, assorted gift cards, and chocolates.
Kimberly stated, "going into the building" following February 14 "shows a lot of fortitude and should be recognized." She added, "the gifts are all from the heart, with students' personalized cards that are intermingled in the bags. I feel indebted to the teachers at Douglas. I have been through many active shooter trainings as a teacher."
This project holds extra special meaning to Kimberly's daughter, Ella, who was present at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14 and held in a back area of a study hall class. Hours later, a SWAT team helped Ella and fellow students exit to safety.
"As a student at MSD, I get a lot of support," said Ella. If it is necessary to pardon herself from the classroom in a moment of sadness or anxiety, she explained that "there are counselors helping students daily in the media center." In the alternative, "teachers walk into school and are expected to stand strong in front of the class all day."
Attached to each tote bag is an invitation for a teacher support group that Stacie Boyar has coordinated for the third Saturday of each month this summer. "When they started talking about arming teachers, my only thought was that they should be armed with supplies and love," said Stacie.
Kimberly added, "We want the Douglas teachers to know that in this country, and throughout the world, people are thinking about them."