A South Bend teacher with roots in Goshen is seeking a little help from her friends, with the hope of securing enough funding to buy basic school supplies for her students.
Shannon Miller, a Middlebury native living in Goshen, accepted a position this past July teaching fifth-graders at Madison STEAM Academy, part of the South Bend school system.
Prior to her arrival at Madison STEAM Academy, Miller had spent the past five years teaching elementary school students at an international school in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“I went to Taylor University in Upland, Indiana, and graduated with a degree in elementary education in 2014. I’ve always loved Spanish and I had always kind of wanted to have an overseas experience, so I accepted a position at an international school in Buenos Aires, Argentina, right out of college,” Miller said of her teaching background. “I originally had a two-year contract with the school and I just fell in love with the culture and the school itself. It was an international school, so there were kids from all over the place, different cultures, etc. So I ended up actually being there for five years. I kept renewing my contract.”
At the conclusion of her fifth year at the international school, however, Miller said she began to feel an urge to return to the United States and expand her teaching experience.
“I made the decision that I wanted to move back to the U.S. because I kind of felt that I was at a point where I had grown the maximum that I could at the school that I was at, and that in order to continue growing, I would need to move back to the states and get some experience here as well,” Miller said.
“So I got back in July of this year, and I knew that I didn’t have a lot of time. So I started getting out applications as fast as I could, and the principal here at Madison, she was actually one of the first principals to get back with me. And so I had an interview with her, and I just kind of fell in love with the position.”
Now settled in and with several weeks of the new school year under her belt, Miller said the biggest issue she is currently running into when it comes to her classroom is a lack of basic school supplies for her students, most of whom she said come from lower-income homes that often do not have the resources to pay for such supplies on their own.
“I believe like 90 percent of our students at Madison are on free-and-reduced lunch, so sometimes school supplies, just basic things, they’re hard to get just because of the circumstances,” Miller said of the situation. “So even just basic supplies like pencils and paper and hand sanitizer and tissues and those kinds of things, not all of my students are sometimes able to provide that.”
To make matters worse, Miller said while she had maintained a fully supplied classroom in Argentina, she had to leave most of those supplies behind when she made the trip back to the U.S., and thus had to start completely from scratch with her new classroom in South Bend.
“A lot of times, and I’m speaking from experience as an elementary teacher, a lot of elementary teachers, we have different things that we bring into our classrooms to help with the learning experience, and also just with the environment of our classrooms, making them feel welcome and all of that,” Miller said. “So, since I had my classroom kind of set and ready in Argentina, but when I only had two suitcases to come back, that made it a little difficult to bring back all of my decorations and materials, etc. So, when I got here, I was basically starting from scratch, and there is just a lot to provide. And the school does provide some things, and I’ve had a great base to get that started. But it’s just kind of providing those extra things for the students to make it just a little more welcoming, engaging and hands-on for them.”
wGiven her predicament, Miller decided in July to create a campaign through the popular crowdfunding platform GoFundMe, where as of Friday she had raised $375 of her $1,000 fundraising goal to purchase new school supplies for her students.
“So what I’m hoping to purchase with the funding is really just basic school supplies for kids who need them, so paper, pencils, markers and also hygiene stuff, so hand sanitizer, tissues, etc.,” Miller said of the campaign. “And then also our classroom library needs a little help, so books. And then also items for my STEAM centers. So that would be things like craft supplies, Legos, just different hands-on things for the kids. That’s basically what the money would be going toward. But the No. 1 priority would be just those basic school supplies.”
Even with the stressors of settling into a new school and dealing with her classroom supplies shortage, Miller was quick to note that she couldn’t be happier with her new position at Madison and remains a tireless advocate of the teaching profession.
“I think that teaching is definitely a calling. I also think that it is not something you go into to make a lot of money. But I think the reward is super high and I think the interactions that you make with the students are invaluable,” Miller said of her chosen career path. “And at the end of the day, no matter how hard all the other stuff is, I think that if you feel called to that, if you enjoy working with kids, then it’s worth it.”
For more information about Miller’s GoFundMe campaign or to contribute to the fundraiser, visit www.gofundme.com/f/shannon039s-indiana-classroom.