When Lily got her first job in the district, she quickly realized that many of her students were living without basic necessities, and found that most of her students’ only “home cooked” meals were from the school hot-lunch bar. So, she decided to create a program for her class, and eventually her grade, called Kids Can Cook, a twice-monthly cooking and nutrition class that she funds from her own pocket.
Every other Friday, she teaches her students a new cooking skill and a nutrition lesson, and then they cook and eat their creations in the classroom. Lily has been able to bring Kids Can Cook to each class in her grade level, and plans to help other grades implement the program in years to come.
“My hope is that the addition of these Kids Can Cook lessons plants the seeds to continue a healthier lifestyle, long after they leave my classroom.” – Lily Richardson, 2nd Grade Teacher
To make her classroom a more inclusive and equitable environment for all students and their families, Lily extended her two parent-teacher conference nights per year to a two-week period. During these two weeks, she makes herself available to parents with the opportunity to meet virtually, on the phone, in-person, and she has even driven to some parent's work to meet on their break times. She asks her students to practice their spelling words at home each night, but recognizes this may be hard for some parents. So, she worked with parents to create spelling bags with self-guided practice materials that students can take home. These bags allow students to practice their spelling words, even when their parents are not there to help them.
“The idea that all parents can devote the same amount of time to their students’ educational careers is not an inclusive or fair expectation. Parents in lower income schools are struggling to find time to meet the needs put upon them by their children’s schools. My hope is that meeting these parents where they are will help to foster a successful parent-teacher relationship, to then help create a successful educational career for their students.”
With the Unconventional Thinking in Teaching grant, Lily will not only be able to supplement the personal money she is spending on the Kids Can Cook program, but also purchase art supplies, which are extremely limited to non-existent in her school as well as more books for her classroom. She is currently spending $50 per month of her own money to supplement her classroom library, which, with the high cost of books, comes out to two to three books per month. Lastly, she would like to create a classroom closet filled with clothes and hygiene products for her students, as many of her students come to class without clothes or shoes that fit or are wearable.
“When students come in and tell me they do not have shampoo and body wash, or a toothbrush or toothpaste, I would like to be able to send them home that same day with whatever they are lacking. Right now they have to wait for me to run to the store after school and pick up whatever it is they told me they need.”