A group of students at the University of Arkansas – Fort Smith have taken up the mission of supporting teachers and children in the region after a lesson on satire inspired the class to respond to a serious problem with more than just humor.
Thursday, Oct. 3, from noon to 3 p.m. at the UAFS Bell Tower, a team of students will host Help A Teacher, Help A Child, an inaugural school supply drive and fundraiser to support the educators of Fort Smith.
After watching a “Key and Peele” sketch where the comedic duo narrates “the exciting world of pro teaching,” in a “Sports Center”-style round table, students in Dr. Christian Gerard’s Composition I class began to wonder what they could do to celebrate teachers in the same way society lauds professional athletes.
“Our class had a huge response toward the inaction of the creators of the video,” explained student Sierra Betancourt. “We decided to take action. We hope to raise awareness that teachers are vital to our future generations and the betterment of society. Teachers should be given the resources needed in order to assist them in their mission to enlighten young minds.”
“I thought we’d explore how the sketch highlights the difference we can see in the American popular imagination between the political rhetoric that says we have a core value of education and the fact that those values aren’t actually supported by the public in the same way as professional sports in terms of capital economy,” said Dr. Gerard. “We did talk about those things, but my students took the conversation further. They wanted to know what Key and Peele intended to do about the situation. They believed the show should push past the sketch, seeing it as a call to action which they intend to answer.”
The Help A Teacher, Help A Child campaign aims to increase public awareness of the importance and value of educators, as well as collect much needed supplies and funds for the Fort Smith Public School System. According to a National Center for Education Statistics survey, the average K-12 teacher spent approximately $479 on school supplies for their classroom in 2015.
“Educational institutions are severely lacking crucial resources and compensation,” continued Betancourt. “If at the end of this project even just one person is able to help one teacher or one student, then I would say that our goal has been achieved.”
During the event, Brian Jackson, commonly known as “The I Believe Guy,” of Tahlequah, Oklahoma, will speak to attendees. Jackson is the 12-time Guinness Book of World Records holder for inflating hot water bottles and a sought-after motivational speaker and celebrity who appeared on Stan Lee’s television show “Super Humans” as well as “America’s Got Talent,” “Good Morning America” and many others.
Guests of the event are invited to bring school supplies, which will be used as currency to “buy” more than $1000 worth of donated merchandise and gift cards from local businesses. The traded school supplies, as well as any that are collected as straightforward donations, will be donated to Fort Smith Public Schools to help stock classrooms.