Working together to help parents and teachers
By Johanna Willett | Jul 9, 2021
For the Education Coalition, serving teachers and parents during a pandemic looks like supplying both paper and microphones to classrooms in transition.
The initiative is an outreach of CityView Church in Glendale and CalvaryPHX. Since August 2020, the two churches have worked together to help parents, students, teachers and schools navigate education during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Overall, the Education Coalition is about supporting families where they are in that moment,” says Andrea Worth, Calvary’s outreach director and a co-founder of the Education Coalition.
Worth worked with friends Jeannine Denny, the outreach director at CityView Church and a former preschool teacher, and Dawn Suddock, who has a background in early childhood education, to create an initiative that could meet specific needs caused by COVID-19.
Those evolved over the school year from virtual learning kits and support groups for parents juggling their children’s at-home learning to school supplies and encouragement for teachers when schools reopened. The coalition also offered kits stocked with notes of encouragement, stuffed animals and other items for kids grieving a loss or struggling with anxiety.
The Education Coalition grew out of existing relationships Calvary and CityView already had with nearby schools.
Worth says, “We have this model of going in and talking to a principal and saying, ‘Hi, we’re here with no agenda. We just want to love on you and support you and know what your needs are and what your vision is. How can we partner with you?’”
CityView, a smaller church, works specifically with three schools. CalvaryPHX is developing a relationship with its seventh.
Phil Garitson, the principal at Cholla Middle School, has worked with Worth and Calvary for years. Now, when he needs something, he calls Worth. This past year has been particularly challenging, he says.
“Our teachers have needed a lot of emotional support, and it’s been hard for them, and they’re ready for this year to be in the books,” Garitson says.
Support from Calvary varied — sometimes, it was encouraging notes for teachers or a balloon garland created for 8th-grade promotion. And other times it was a coffee truck in the school parking lot for weary teachers, Garitson says.
“It makes (the teachers) feel valued, because we very often don’t have the resources to do something like bring a coffee truck to our parking lot,” he says. “This year has been particularly hard because the fundraising we [normally] did, we weren’t able to do.”
And that’s where the Education Coalition comes in — they meet needs.
“There are 10 days left of the school year, and teachers are still requesting things,” Denny says. “All it really took was one teacher at one school putting up a need, we supplied it and word got out.”
The partnership between the churches has given the coalition more resources.
“We knew the need was too big for just one of our churches to do it on their own,” Denny says. “Our churches are in close proximity, and a lot of our community is involved in both. So, we knew between both communities we could rally people.”
They’ve also seen the community respond by sharing prayer requests and asking for service details. Denny says CityView has seen a handful of families come to church for special services.
“It’s hard in a pandemic not to grow apathetic,” Worth says. “But God has worked through it enough for us to see fruit. I get emails from teachers saying, ‘Thank you for doing this. You have no idea how seen I feel, and how much this has impacted me.’ And that’s the goal, that at the end of the day, they know they are loved, and there is hope because somebody loves us.”
Johanna Willett, a freelance writer living in Tucson, is a member of Mountain View Baptist Church, Tucson.
—As schools gear up later this summer, look for a nearby school your church can build a relationship with and ask the principal how you can help.
—Partner with another church to serve your shared community. You can find other Southern Baptist churches in your city at azsbc.org/find-a-church.
—To learn more about the Education Coalition, visit edcoinitiative.com.