#LoveWhatMatters: Teacher Panhandles For Students’ Supplies, Gets Overwhelming Donor Response [Opinion]

Teacher Teresa Danks holds up panhandling sign

If Teresa Danks doesn’t win “Teacher of the Year” in her home state, she should definitely be a CNN Heroes 2017 nominee. The Oklahoma teacher demonstrated her undying love for students and her frustration with public school system budget cuts by panhandling to raise funds to help buy school supplies.

Teresa is a 50-year-old resident and teacher in Claremore. During the break, she visited thrift stores and yard sales to find deals on classroom supplies for her students. Today, she panhandles for a worthy cause.

Recently, Danks and her husband talked about their finances and realized the burden of using their personal income to continue subsidizing supplies for less fortunate kids. Teresa taught for the past 12 years and has developed a loving heart for her pupils.

“My husband and I were just talking that morning and he kind of jokingly said, ‘You could always make a sign and go on the corner like the panhandlers.’ I said, ‘You know what? I think I’m going to do that. That’s a great idea.'”

After hatching the novel idea to panhandle, Teresa scribbled words on a poster board that read, “Teacher Needs School Supplies! Anything Helps.” She admitted that the panhandling experience was unnerving and she didn’t know how motorists would respond, according a GMA report.

However, within minutes, several passersby began offering donations. One person was so moved by Teresa’s efforts that she said, “Teachers like you are the reason I’m alive today.”

Danks only earns about $35,000 in salary as an Oklahoma teacher. However, she uses about $2,000 or nearly 6 percent of the income to help buy books and other items for her class.

The benevolent teacher posted the news on Facebook and the panhandling message went viral. Danks continued her fundraising efforts with a local television station in tow, and was able to collect more funds for her class.

Alicia Priest is the president of the Oklahoma Education Association. She spoke about the budget shortfalls, which prompted some teachers to leave in search for better-paying jobs. Others who remained often shell out nearly $500 of their own money to support poor children. She also reacted to the teacher’s efforts to panhandle for school supplies.

“It should shock and sadden us all that it has come down to a teacher having to go out on a street corner and ask for money so that the students in the classroom get what they need to succeed, but more power to her. Teachers have always bought supplies that they wanted to decorate their rooms but in Oklahoma within the last five years, with the funding cuts that we’ve taken, it’s things like textbooks and library books and graphing calculators.”

Teresa’s efforts paid off in grand fashion. Not only did she surpass her original goal of $2,000 to address the needs of her own classroom, but also she set a new bar of $20,000 to help other educators respond to the dire needs of their students. As of this writing, she has reached 21 percent of her goal.

Sadly, according to Time magazine, the situation is bleak around the country as a whole and teachers are on the front lines. I believe hundreds — if not thousands — more teachers like Danks are needed to address the indigence in the classroom among lower-income students.

It’s one of those times where you hope big players like Bill Gates, Oprah, Beyonce or Steph Curry step up and cut a check. I don’t mean to pressure millionaires and billionaires to solve all the problems of the world with their wealth — although it would be nice for every student to have access to school supplies.

Rather, I’m hoping that others can give where needed, especially in their own towns where there is bound to be a school that is suffering a similar fate with budget cuts.

When I got wind of this amazing story, the first thing that came to mind is a website I recently discovered that spoke to my heart. Love What Matters is a site that posts inspirational stories about people who hold fast to precious moments in their lives.

The site explores stories of courage, sacrifice, milestones –you name it. Originally, I thought it was a tearjerker site that shared stories of grief and mourning.

Nonetheless, I learned quickly that it was chock-full of feel-good moments experienced by everyday people. To my knowledge, the story about the Oklahoma teacher hasn’t been posted on the site, but it’s a perfect example of how Danks and others see the brighter side of life — the glass half-full if you will.

I had just concluded another post about a Hollywood celebrity and a new tattoo she shared with her millions of fans. I returned to search the wires for more gossip, but soon found myself glued to Teresa’s act of kindness and bravery.

I’ll confess that her unselfish act brought me to tears. Here is a woman who loves what matters — and I am forever grateful for her heroics and unselfish heart.

The Oklahoma teacher knows that her panhandling efforts are only a drop in the bucket. She hopes others will follow suit and do whatever they can to help a student in need.

“What I hope they take away is that the education of our children is important to our future, so it needs to be important to everyone. I would say go to your local schools and find out what they need.”

For the sake of the children, I’m cheering really hard that Teresa Danks reaches her goal.

Note: I haven’t seen the Wonder Woman movie yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Teresa is hiding a secret identity and plays the part in real life.

Whether it’s this amazing story or something else that prompts you to perform an act of kindness; I hope you love what matters.

[Featured Image by Teresa Danks/Go Fund Me]