Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

For Teacher Appreciation week, we asked you to nominate great teachers who have influenced you, your friend, or your child. We were THRILLED to see so many nominees! As we read through hundreds of nominations and stories, we were barely holding back the tears. You teachers are INCREDIBLE, and we were overwhelmed reading about the impact you have on students around the country.

The significance of teachers at Starfish Project is invaluable. Our teachers are so important because they help women and girls take the first steps towards establishing independence developing careers. They are pivotal in the beginning steps of independence. Without our teachers, women at Starfish Project would not be taught basic computer, design, business or even team working skills. With the help of our wonderful teachers, these women are able to learn and grow. We LOVE and appreciate our teachers so much.

We chose ten moving stories about your nominees to share with you today. Grab your tissues, and starting reading!

Kristina Remsen writes about her friend, Kathy Murphy, who has taught in large amounts in the small town of Augusta, Montana for over 20 years! From her counseling sessions with students about what’s next, to teaching students how to sew, Kathy Murphy restores hope to her students by pouring out her time, energy and wisdom onto them! Read about what Kristina said about her friend

“She genuinely cares about the success of each and every student in her school. Being in a small community, she fills many roles. She is the Home Ec and Sewing teacher, as well as the Marriage & Family Planning teacher and K-12 Guidance counselor. She also leads the Student Council and sponsors a class to help them with fundraising throughout their years of school. Every extra minute she has is spent helping the students in her K-12 school. She devotes her entire life to ensuring the success and well being of every student she comes in contact with. She goes the extra mile to be sure that each student is achieving the goals she knows they are capable of, as well as going above and beyond, even if that means sometimes taking in a student who is need of a place to stay due to homelife conditions beyond their control (she has actually done this on numerous occasions….housed students that have no where else to go), or if that means buying some new clothing for students in need, or making sure they have food money for an athletic trip, she always goes above and beyond. She has been devoting her time, energy, and whole heart to her students for over 20 years.”

Kathy Murphy

Eden writes about her lovely mother, Jessica Locke, who homeschooled all her children. We love and cherish our homeschool teachers!! How incredible is it that mothers feel confident, encouraged and capable to teach their own children? We hope that through these wonderful stories, women at Starfish Project feel empowered to establish independence and develop their own careers! Read what Eden said about her mom:

“The greatest teacher I know is my mom. My mom started homeschooling me in 3rd grade, ever since she has constantly displayed love and grace to my siblings and I. So far she has schooled four children, and is still schooling them. She has taught us and learned some things along the way, especially as she has demonstrated math techniques that’s she’s not good at and taught my little brothers how to read. She is always putting us first, and I’m sure this isn’t what she expected to be doing with her life, but she is doing everything she can to be sure we have a good education. I’m so thankful for her and the daily hope she gives me when I see that even when things are hard for us, pushing through and remaining steadfast is the greatest thing you can do. My mother gives me hope for my life and others, I don’t think I could be more grateful.”

Jessica Locke

Emily Hooey writes about her son’s 5th grade teacher, Jen Fisher, who is quick to empower students in her class! Read about her story below:

“I have tears in my eyes just thinking about Mrs. Fisher. My son was adopted out of an abusive and severely neglectful home at a age 5. Education has always been a struggle for him. Finally in 2nd grade I home schooled him, and in that year we saw not only is he capable of learning, he tested out of all Special Education services. It was explained to us that his language would always be a bit of a struggle because of the lack of foundation in the early years. His confidence, although growing, was also a hurtle as well. Encouraged by his growth he was back in public school for 3rd and 4th grade, but by the end of 4th grade he was failing gain. We entered 5th grade with ‘plan’. Only I never needed to implement the plan because of Mrs. Fisher. She was quick to empower and encourage no only my son but all the students Everything that comes out of her mouth is positive. She is focused on the students learning materials. Sometimes she does this creatively other times she focus on repetition. But in the end the students feel they can accomplish anything if the put the effort in. Mrs. Fishers ability to empower “learners” is setting my son and his classmates up for success for the rest of their life!”

Kristin Smith talks about her son’s teacher, Mrs. Carroll, who cares so well for her students! We love hearing about teachers who take the extra step to challenge and encourage their students. Read about Mrs. Carroll below:

“Mrs. Carroll is an energetic and engaged second-grade teacher for our son Elijah. She is the type of teacher that you can tell is doing the job that she loves. She is a champion for her students and works hard to make sure that they are learning at their fullest capacity. When we had conferences for Elijah she told us that she goes home at night and thinks of ways that she can challenge him. He is a very good student and she recognizes his need for more challenging material. Recently when he wasn’t his usual happy self at school she made sure to email me right away to see if there was anything going on with his that we knew of at home or at school. She genuinely cares about her students and wants to create a safe learning environment for all of them. As we have seen the tragedies occur in schools over the recent months, it is teachers like Mrs. Carroll that give me hope that there are men and women working hard day in and day out to instill kindness and character and a capacity for working hard in our young people. She spends more waking hours with my son and I am just so grateful that Elijah has a teacher that cares so much for not only his education but also his character. We will be sad to say goodbye to her at the end of this year – she is a true gem!”

Emily Carroll

Jamie McLemore nominated Ms. Carter Garris, who fearlessly and selflessly pours into her Special Education class. We are constantly encouraged by our Special Education teachers who’s patience and love is never ending. Thank you to all of our teachers who teach and love on students with disabilities! Read about how wonderful Ms. Garris is below:

“Carter inspires hopes to all of her students and their families. Carter is a Special Education Teacher that has worked helping students with varying disabilities – autism, learning disabilities, emotional disturbances, and down syndrome. Her passion is helping students with disabilities achieve what may seem insurmountable. She is able to do this because of how much she loves her students. She loves them beyond words and her patience with her students is a true gift. She doesn’t settle for anything less than the best of what they can achieve. One of her student’s parents claimed that her daughter was a completely different person after a year in Carter’s class. The student had a new self of confidence and reassurance, despite any disabilities. She restores hope by lifting confidence as students achieve new academic, social, and life achievements. Some of these achievements may have seemed out of reach at one point; yet, with hope and hard work the impossible is achieved.”

Kim Huffman speaks about her friend, Karen Lee, who is a dual language teacher in West Chicago! Teachers like Karen are who help students celebrate their differences and encourage everyone they encounter to love others well. Read what Kim wrote about her friend Karen:

“Karen loves her job as teacher! She teaches at the two-way dual language school in West Chicago where native Spanish speaker and native English speakers are purposefully placed in the same classroom and taught in two languages so that they all become bilingual, biliterate and bicultural. She encourages all of her students to embrace and celebrate their cultural heritage, while also celebrating the cultures of others. She intentionally fosters strong relationships with students and their families so that they know they have someone on their team who loves them and is rooting for them. Last year she had a really tough kid in her class who saw himself as a ‘bad kid,’ but through working with him and his family, he turned around and is now thriving in middle school, having had no behavioral issues this year. This year she has a couple students in her class with family members experiencing health crises. Her classroom has been a safe space for them in the midst of a lot of challenges at home. Karen also started a staff prayer meeting on Monday mornings, and teachers are not only attending, but submitting prayer requests if they cannot be there.”

Karen Lee

This first picture is of Karen’s students reading to their 2nd grade buddies. The second is of her students studying compost and decomposition on their recent Outdoor Ed Field Trip.

Jordan Liebich writes about her high school biology teacher, Mrs. Cole. Jordan’s words illustrate how influential teachers are to their students. Read what Mrs. Cole’s student said about her below:

“As a whole, we have a lot of amazing teachers at our school. However, for a long time, one has always been held in the highest regard. Samantha (Sam) Cole is not only our high school biology teacher but for many of us, she is like family. Of all of our teachers, she is the most supportive, and she spends way more time than necessary helping us and making sure that we have all the tools to succeed in any life we choose. My most memorable moment is from a couple of weeks ago, where she spent most of the class giving us a rundown on why we shouldn’t be so stressed about school and that we should spend more time helping each other than putting each other down.”

Samantha Cole

Mrs. Cole with her biology students.

Here are Mrs. Cole’s students posing with their biology lab coats, on and the next is Mrs. Cole with her students backpacking in the snow in the Sawtooth Wilderness.

Kathryn Heinen was nominated by one of her students, Madeline Shober. Hearing students talk about their teachers brings light to how significant and impactful someone can be. We are so encouraged by the way that teachers, like Mrs. Heinen, create comfortable environments for students to be their authentic selves. We also just love our music teachers!! Read about what Mrs. Heinen’s student said about her below:

“Mrs. Heinen is my music teacher. She comes to class each day with a positive attitude and a selfless heart. She is one of the hardest workers I know and inspires me everyday to give everything my best. She respects herself and others with her honesty, and shows love to others by pushing them to their true potential. Mrs. Heinen stretches us everyday, resulting in true growth of musical abilities and character. She’s created a safe, positive learning environment where I feel like I can come as I am. Each day in her class I see a teacher who truly wants every student to learn, succeed, and feel valued. Mrs. Heinen is very reflective and is always looking for ways to grow and improve her teaching, making her a truly wonderful teacher to have.”

Brittany Sinitch is nominated by Bridget Pearsall, and teaches the 9th grade. Brittany was one of the many courageous teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on the tragic day many lives were taken in February. Even in the midst of brokenness, Ms. Sinitch encourages her students and those around her with optimism, kindness and love. See what Bridget wrote about Ms. Sinitch below:

“Brittany, or @fivefootoneteacher as I know her on Instagram, was already a light and an inspiration to her students. She has positivity beaming out of her. The quotes around her classroom are all that if inspiration. She wants to spread kindness all of the time. You can clearly see, just in her smile, that she loves what she does. Brittany is one of the many teachers who were in the building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas the day 17 lives were taken. However, Brittany was in the building where the shooting occurred. She had to protect her students, she had to have a moment where she had to think about giving her own life to protect her students’ lives. No teacher should have to go through this. There is still so much that is going to have to be done. She will need to face her kids again one day soon, when everyone returns to school. She is going to have to find a way to smile to them, when you know they are all scared and so is she. It is awful to image what she is having to go through to grieve… Our town is broken. If a small gift like this can bring a smile to Brittany’s face, then it is so worth it. Brittany does a lot to help her community. She raises money with Dance Marathon and is very passionate about it. I can’t think of a gift any more perfect for her than one coming from a company like Starfish Project, that does what they do to help others. This gift is made for her.”

Natalie Griffith talks about her friend Ms. Hollinger, who teaches the 2nd grade at Rippling Woods Elementary School. Hearing about teachers with unending imaginations makes us so excited. We love and appreciate teachers likes Ms. Hollinger who push students to act on their creativity and unveil their full potential!

“Jackie is warm, energetic and probably has the best imagination of anyone I know! Combined with her sense of humor and amazing story-telling she has a captivated audience with her 2nd graders. Jackie is loving and sensitive and her passion for children is obvious. As many teachers have to do these days, Jackie has to make the most out of limited budgets and lack of supplies, but that has never been an excuse. She adores her students and the feeling is most definitely mutual. In a diverse setting, she is able to make her students feel important, smart and valued. Instilling in them that everyone is able and has important skills–taking the time to cater to their various learning styles. Ms. Hollinger is one of my oldest friends and one of the best teachers out there!”

Thanks to teachers around the world, students of all ages have the chance to establish independence and experience freedom! THANK YOU TEACHERS FOR ALL YOU DO!

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