A Project Full of Heart

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Erin Holtkamp, an ENL teacher at George Washington School, took it upon herself to ensure students’ needs are being met at home by donating books to families in the community.

“While making phone calls to some of my students’ homes, I asked one of them if they had books to read at home. To my surprise, they were confused by the question,” said Holtkamp. Many of her students’ families spoke Spanish as their first language and were having some difficulties in communicating with her in English.

Holtkamp utilized her conversational Spanish skills and was able to clarify that she needed to know if her students had any books they like to read at home. She was saddened to hear their answers. “My students answers ranged from no books at all, to only books they had taken quickly from school, which was one or two.” She decided she had to do something to provide her students with more reading materials at home.

Holtkamp and her family got to work, collecting books to donate from their own home. She reached out to her fellow fourth grade educators and middle school colleagues and within two days, she had boxes of books for her students delivered to her front door.

Holtkamp’s husband runs a company that sells books and educational materials and has a huge storage locker filled with resources. Here, she found some fantastic books in Spanish and even some in English and Spanish. “We raided the storage locker and collected another 50 books from the collection of different publishers. In the end, we had over 160 books.”

She and her family then sorted the books amongst 13 students in 12 families, doing their best to organize them based on interest, skill and providing an equal amount for all. In each hand-decorated bag of books, she included a letter and a notice of 10 ideas of what to do while reading these new books, written both in English and Spanish.

Holtkamp contacted the families again and told them she would be coming by to drop off the books. She requested they come out to collect them and assured them she would keep a safe distance. “It was a successful and fantastic day full of appreciation and smiles from my students and their families. Just to see their smiling faces was all I needed,” Holtkamp said.

Holtkamp thanks Principal Michelle Notti, Jackie Andrejko Diana Parillo, Stacey Boshnack and Michelle Lambraia, her friend Teresa McCarthy and her husband’s company ERC Sales for donating the variety of books given to students. She also stressed the team effort that went into the book donations. “This is not my project, but a West Hempstead School District project full of heart from so many educators.”