Taft Elementary School teacher surprised by gift of school supplies
By Tina Akouris email@example.com October 3, 2013 8:08PM
Updated: November 5, 2013 6:25AM
Mary Ferdinand is probably relieved she showed up at school Thursday.
The Taft Elementary School second-grade teacher was sick most of this week with walking pneumonia. Little did she know that the school had to cancel a surprise visit Tuesday from the sales staff at the OfficeMax store on Larkin Avenue in Joliet.
So Taft Principal Joy Hopkins and store manager Ken Kazak rescheduled the visit for Thursday when Ferdinand planned to return to work.
Everyone was glad she did.
Ferdinand was surprised with about $1,000 worth of school supplies as part of the seventh annual OfficeMax: A Day Made Better program, which helps teacher-funded classrooms. The nationwide program has helped more than 31,000 teachers get about $25 million in grants and supplies.
Ferdinand was shocked.
“It was the last thing I expected to happen today,” Ferdinand said. “It’s an honor to have someone think of me. I’ve been out sick for two days and I was just trying to get my class back in order.”
The one gift that made Ferdinand choke up the most was a Kindle Fire that Kazak gave to Ferdinand for her own personal use.
Ferdinand is one of School District 86’s longest tenured staff members at 41 years. She’s worked at Forest Park, Lincoln, John F. Kennedy and Sanchez before coming to Taft eight years ago.
Ferdinand faced a new challenge this school year. After working in a resource position, Ferdinand saw that job get phased out. She decided to go back to teaching, but realized she did not have a stash of school supplies to use like other teachers.
“I gave a lot of my old things away and I’m trying to scrape things together,” Ferdinand said. “But I will be putting these to very good use.”
So school secretary Rose Kerr decided to nominate Ferdinand for the OfficeMax program. Kerr went to high school with Ferdinand at St. Francis in Joliet, now Joliet Catholic Academy, just down the street from Taft.
“We were more like acquaintances and we were in the same class, 1969,” Kerr said. “It was very hard for Mary to go back into the classroom.”
Ferdinand didn’t know Kerr nominated her for the gift.
“No, no idea,” Ferdinand said. “I’ve known Rose a long time and we’ve worked together in different capacities over the years. It was really nice of her to think about me — more than nice, just really kind.
“And there’s so many other good people here in the building. I’ll have to give her a hug later on.”
But before Kazak and his staff left Taft, they also surprised Hopkins with about $600 to $800 worth of school supplies to distribute to all of Taft’s students and teachers. Hopkins said the inventory of supplies from OfficeMax should last until Christmas.
“We have seen an increase in our low socioeconomic families and we have some children that come in with nothing,” Hopkins said. “We are constantly giving them book bags and notebooks and crayons and everything they need for a classroom setting. It’s great to get that to replenish (supplies).”