WASHINGTON— For her work to improve the lives of students at home and abroad, Karen King, a member of the Newtown Federation of Teachers and a fifth-grade teacher at Reed Intermediate School in Newtown, Conn., today received an American Federation of Teachers Everyday Hero award.
“I want my students to get a great education, and part of that involves instilling in them a sense that they are part of a larger, global community,” King said.
King’s philanthropic efforts began when she and her students’ started a school supply drive called “Pencils for Peace” for a school that had been destroyed in the conflict in Kosovo. Her students wrote letters to businesses to collect pencils for the Kosovar students. This effort then evolved into a communitywide fundraiser that raised more than $12,000 to help rebuild the devastated school’s library.
Closer to home, King engages her students and colleagues in her many volunteer efforts, including making sandwiches for a local homeless shelter in Danbury, Conn. She has involved all of Reed Intermediate in an even more ambitious effort—she helped organize a photography project called “Eye to Eye” with her students, who spent a year sharing letters, poems, songs and photographs about their everyday lives, with Liberian refugee students who attend a free school in the Buduburam Refugee Camp in Ghana, West Africa. The project blossomed into a schoolwide fundraising effort to provide them with supplies, and even to move the school back to their homeland when they were able to return to Liberia.
King also works with Rotary clubs throughout Connecticut to raise funds needed to start an eye clinic in Liberia. For this project, she works with Unite for Sight, an organization she became involved with while doing teacher trainings in Haiti. To date, she has raised $50,000.
This is the second year of the AFT Everyday Hero awards, which are given to AFT members who go above and beyond the call of duty and make a difference every day in their workplaces or communities. This year, more than 350 members were nominated, and five semifinalists were selected for each AFT division (Teachers, Paraprofessionals and School-Related Personnel, Public Employees, Higher Education, Healthcare and Retirees). More than 5,000 people voted online to choose each division’s winner.
The 2011 Everyday Heroes are being honored at their divisional conferences. King received her award today at the AFT’s TEACH conference in Washington, D.C. The other teacher semifinalists were Hope Evanoff, Providence (R.I.) Teachers Union; Martha Hanley, Wayne (N.Y.) Teachers’ Association; Andrea Harrison, Teachers’ Association of the Tarrytowns (N.Y.); and Sharon Wingfield, Chicago Teachers Union.
For more information on AFT Everyday Heroes, visit www.aft.org/everydayheroes.