DANVILLE — OfficeMax employees and Liberty Elementary School students and staff surprised an unsuspecting teacher with $1,000 worth of classroom supplies on Tuesday.
Colleagues said it was a remarkable feat considering the teacher was Betsy Porter, and "unsuspecting" rarely describes the 17-year veteran.
"She usually knows everything," teaching assistant Angie Springer said with a laugh. In fact, if the morning's secretly-planned school assembly hadn't been for Porter, she probably would have been behind it. "She's just so involved. If something is going on, she has probably organized it. Or if someone else started it, she's right in there helping out."
Porter received the supplies as part of OfficeMax's annual "A Day Made Better" program, in which OfficeMax Goodworks donated $1,000 in supplies to 1,000 teachers across the U.S. on Tuesday. Established in 2007, the program aims to recognize teachers who demonstrate passion, dedication and innovation in the classroom as well as ease the financial burden of educators who often reach into their own pockets to make sure their students have the supplies they need throughout the year.
Since its inception, the program and other OfficeMax Goodworks programs have awarded more than $18 million in grants and supplies to support more than 29,000 teachers and their classrooms. Through the event, OfficeMax has also helped its nonprofit partner, AdoptAClassroom.org, secure funding for more than 78,000 classrooms nationwide.
Porter, who has taught physical education at Liberty her entire career, was nominated by Principal Eliza Brooks. In a statement read at the assembly by Assistant Superintendent Dianna Kirk, Brooks, who couldn't be there, said Porter is a pillar of the school and has helped establish a loving, fun learning environment in which students thrive and grow.
"Although her job title is physical education teacher, Mrs. Porter is so much more," Brooks wrote, adding Porter recruited her mother and two parents to paint the playground and later helped create a schedule for the entire school.
Porter also serves as a volleyball, basketball and track coach. "If she notices that one of her athletes is struggling with homework or grades, Mrs. Porter uses her plan time and after-school hours to help them catch up," Brooks continued.
Porter, whose daughter Natalie is a Liberty third-grader, also serves as co-president of the parent-teacher association. In addition, she organizes fundraisers throughout the year.
"She is a master at getting materials ready and finding parent and teacher volunteers to help out," Brooks wrote, adding the school wouldn't be able to run without professionals like her.
Before the presentation, Porter was giving fourth-graders a fitness test in the gym. When she heard a commotion behind a heavy curtain separating the gym from the cafeteria, she almost went to check on what was going on.
Then the curtain opened to reveal 378 excited students and staff, Porter's husband, Tom; and her mother, Sue Boudreau. Porter was still in shock when Noe Garcia, the assistant manager of Danville's OfficeMax, and other employees presented her with a swivel desk chair, a laminator, pens, pencils, notebooks, a backpack and other supplies.
"I can tape you when you do your sit-ups," Porter told students, after pulling a video camera out of a large cardboard box.
Garcia said customers helped raise an additional $650 that will be used to provide the school with even more supplies.
Porter told the crowd that she would accept the gifts only on behalf of the school. "This is for all of us," she said, through tears.
Later, Porter said she's grateful to OfficeMax and her principal and co-workers, whom she credited with helping her do the things she has done. "We all work as a team," she said, adding all of the staff go the extra mile including buying items to enhance learning or help out children in need.