Sometimes all is takes to make someone feel special is a paper-cutter and a fresh cup of coffee.
The faculty at Newell Barney Middle School, 24937 S. Sossaman Road in Queen Creek, have both and more thanks to the school’s new Parent-Teacher-Student Organization, and these and other everyday items are making a world of difference to the workers.
“They bought us two Keurigs so we have coffee when we need it and a paper-cutter. Just having hand sanitizer is a big help,” Kyle Olson, a sixth-grade science and social studies teacher at Newell Barney, said during a phone interview. “In previous years we’d have to run out or ask the parents. Having the supplies makes it much easier to be in the classroom.”
Eric Pilon, who teaches physical education to sixth- through eighth-graders, said it is nice to be recognized by the PTSO.
“This group goes all in for us, doing luncheons and providing supplies,” Mr. Pilon said during a phone interview. “It makes us feel appreciated that some people do care. Supplies like Kleenex and hand sanitizer are a nice luxury to have in the classroom.”
The staff received the supplies as part of the Christmas wish tree created by the PTSO this past December. Members bought a tree and placed tags indicating which items the faculty needed most. Then Newell Barney parents donated items such as the coffee-makers, hand sanitizer, paper, pens and folders.
The teachers got to choose from the donated items during a “mandatory” staff meeting that turned out to be a surprise holiday breakfast hosted by the PTSO before the start of the school day. Other activities include prize raffles and a photo booth.
Kristin Vigil had wanted felt-tip pens, but they were taken by the time she got to choose from the supplies, she said during a phone interview. Instead, she selected a case of Kleenex, which she said are always welcome in the classroom, and composition tablets.
“The PTSO is definitely appreciated,” Ms. Vigil, who teaches seventh- and eighth-grade math, said. “It feels great they’re taking the time to go out and do these things for us.
“Me personally as a teacher appreciate the work they’re doing and time they’re investing in the teachers,” she continued. “They’re taking the focus off one thing so we can focus on teaching the children.”
The PTSO was created this past summer by Newell Barney parents Stephanie Sandoval and Dawn Oliphant. Mrs. Sandoval has twins in seventh grade at Newell Barney; Mrs. Oliphant has boys in sixth and eighth grades, they said during an interview.
The women met when their children attended Queen Creek Middle School, where Mrs. Sandoval served as president of the QCMS PTO. They bonded over their shared passion to be involved in their children’s school as well as the community, Mrs. Oliphant said.
They brought that same shared passion to creating a PTSO at Newell Barney. Mrs. Oliphant, who has served on the Queen Creek Town Council since June 2010, donated the $20 the organization needed to open a bank account. They created bylaws and sought members using social media and sending fliers home with students to give to their parents.
They held their first meeting in August and elected officers in September. They have been meeting monthly since then. Meetings are generally held at 4:30 p.m. on the third Tuesday of the month in the school’s library. However, the time and date can vary, Mrs. Sandoval said.
To qualify for membership, people have to have a child attending Newell Barney school, Mrs. Oliphant said.
The group’s focus is to show its appreciation for the work the staff performs by providing them with much-needed supplies, hosting special get-togethers and creating fundraisers to finance its projects, Mrs. Oliphant said.
Breakfasts and luncheons are open to all Newell Barney staff members.
“Everyone from cafeteria workers to office staff, maintenance workers and teachers aides, everyone is welcome. We do this for all of them,” Mrs. Oliphant said.
Among the activities the PTSO has hosted are an ice-skating night, which raised $500; a trampoline night and spirit nights during which local eateries donate a portion of their sales revenue on a specified night to the organization, Mrs. Sandoval said.
Future activities include providing gifts for the local faculty as part of National Teacher Appreciation Week, May 1-5, Mrs. Oliphant said.
So far, the group has raised $2,000, Mrs. Oliphant said. Its members also held a coin drive in which it raised $350 for a Queen Creek family who lost two members and all their belongings in a house fire, she said.
For one teacher luncheon, a restaurant donated sandwiches and parents donated drinks and desserts, Mrs. Oliphant said. The PTSO has scheduled luncheons for April and May and is seeking sponsors for those activities, Mrs. Oliphant said. Sponsors do not have to own a restaurant.
The cost to feed the 32 teachers, 16 staff members and other workers at Newell Barney for each luncheon costs $150-$200, Mrs. Oliphant said.
In addition, the PTSO is helping to organize and produce this year’s eighth-grade graduation dance April 7 for 400-500 students from Newell Barney and Queen Creek middle schools. It needs donations for decorations, food, desserts and photographic services.
For more information or to offer to help, call Mrs. Oliphant at 602-770-0232 or Mrs. Sandoval at 480-30-6683 or e-mail her at newellbarneyPTSO@gmail.com.
Newell Barney Principal Denise Johnson, who attends the PTSO meetings, said she is impressed by the group’s thoughtfulness.
“They are always thinking of something special. They are always asking, ‘What do your teachers need?’ All that fundraising is very, very nice, Our teachers are elated and feel appreciated,” she said during a phone interview.
Mrs. Johnson said her role on the PTSO is to update its members about what is happening with the staff and which items they need.
“We opened the school with one paper-cutter that was falling apart. The PTSO purchased a new one, which is being put to good use,” Mrs. Johnson said.
The PTSO is also helping to offset the cost of a project that Mrs. Johnson said will impact the entire school.
Staff members are being encouraged to participate in an art project in which they will paint their college logo, she said. The logos will be hung in classrooms to increase an awareness of college and career readiness, she said.
The cost for each project’s canvas and paint is $20; the PTSO will pay $10 toward each, Mrs. Johnson said.
Projects like these benefit both the staff and student body, Stephanie Marley, a sixth-grade math teacher at Newell Barney said during a phone interview.
“This PTSO helps bridge the gap between teachers, parents and the administration and gives teachers an opportunity to vote on different ways to benefit the school as a whole,” said Ms. Marley, who serves as the PTSO teacher representative. “They bring in great ideas not only to support the teachers but the kids as well.”
Ms. Marley said PTSO members ask her opinion about what teachers would like. One recent request involved the upcoming parent-teacher conferences.
“They asked me if teachers would like them to provide dinner after the conferences and I said, ‘Absolutely.’ This way they don’t have to worry about it and the teachers won’t have to go home late after a long day of conferences,” Ms. Marley said.
Mrs. Oliphant and Mrs. Sandoval were recognized for their efforts by the Queen Creek Unified School District Dec. 6. The women each received the QCUSD Power of One volunteer award during the governing board meeting.
Nominated by the Newell Barney Middle School, the award honors individuals who demonstrate outstanding qualities and efforts in making a difference for education and the students, according to a press release.
“This organization really, really, really wants to support the staff,” Ms. Marley said. “They let us know they’re available. They’re here for us.”
Sponsors sought for luncheons, graduation dance
The Newell Barney Middle School PTSO is seeking sponsors to help fund faculty and student events this spring. The first is the teacher luncheons for April and May. Each costs $150- $200.
Next is the eighth-grade semi-formal graduation dance April 7 for students from both Newell Barney and Queen Creek middle schools. It needs donations for decorations, food, desserts and photographic services.
For more information or to offer to help, call PTSO co-presidents Dawn Oliphant at 602-770-0232 or Stephanie Sandoval at 480-30-6683 or e-mail her at newellbarneyPTSO@gmail.com.