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How COVID-19 reminded the world of the value of educators

June 16, 2020

A pandemic causing a massive migration to distance learning has given the world a new sense of respect and appreciation for teachers. This unprecedented time has reminded us of the expertise, effort, and dedication teachers patiently pour into our youth. Educators create engaging lesson plans, facilitate a learning environment, and build assignments – and the most devoted of teachers go above and beyond the call of duty.

These particular teachers show relentless compassion and care for their students. They provide guidance for student’s educational strengths and weaknesses, but they also take interest in their personal lives and provide a reliable support system to those in need. These teachers take their passion for learning and children to another level, one that has the potential to alter the life of a child – teachers like Linda Caloia.

Linda, now a retired teacher, is a highly valued volunteer of The Giving Closet Project. “Through a Full Service Schools Neighborhood Grant, The Giving Closet has been able to fill a critical basic needs gap for many students. Fortunately, the partnership we have with The Giving Closet allows students that are referred to Full Service Schools to access new and age appropriate clothing and essentials,” stated Keto Porter, director of Full Service Schools.

Full Service Schools is an initiative of United Way that connects students and families to a critical range of therapeutic, health and social services. Porter continued, “The Giving Closet truly helps us in fulfilling our mission of removing non-academic barriers so students have the opportunity to succeed in school and in life.”

The organization provides clothing and hygiene products to students in need, ensuring students’ basic needs are met and providing opportunity for a greater academic experience. Linda has been a vital member of their team since the beginning of the nonprofit’s journey four years ago.

Photo provided by The Giving Closet

“Through the organization’s ups and downs, milestones, direction changes, challenges and struggles, Linda continued to show our organization her dedication and loyalty to making sure our mission continues,” said Jennifer Smith, CEO of The Giving Closet Project.

“Of course, volunteers come and go, but for the last four years, Linda came out weekly to our district hub to fill orders of clothing, hygiene products and school supplies for homeless students and students in need throughout Duval County,” she said. “She has led large volunteer groups, and has even recruited family members and friends to help us out with clothing and shoe drives over the last few years.”

Photo provided by The Giving Closet

Linda has passionately refocused her time and efforts as an educator to making sure students have access to clean clothing and other basic needs. In her time with The Giving Closet Project, she has filled a couple thousand care packages for students in need. According to Smith, Linda has no plan of stopping anytime soon.

During this unparalleled time, we have been prompted to remember the value of teachers in our children’s education. Even more so, we are reminded of the extraordinary hearts of dedicated teachers. Educators like Linda Caloia do not just teach — they inspire people, patiently nurture their students, and go the extra mile to make sure that the students who occupy their classroom are being taken care of in every area of their lives.

To learn more about United Way’s dedication to promoting the health and well-being of students and their families, visit our Full Service Schools webpage.