A second-grade teacher in Phoenix, Ariz. who went viral after she decided to reveal her salary on Facebook was shocked when a complete stranger from New York City stepped forward to “adopt” her classroom, buying crucial supplies for students throughout the school year — then doing the same for four more classrooms.
Elisabeth Milich made headlines in March 2018 when she posted her pay stub from her teaching job at Whispering Wind Academy in reaction to Gov. Doug Ducey’s public claim that teachers’ salaries in Arizona had gone up 4.4 percent and had reached an average of $48,000 per year, according to CBS News. But Milich’s annual salary totaled $35,621 — and that was after receiving a raise of just $131.
At the time, thousands of teachers were marching at the Arizona state capitol in the #RedforEd movement, rallying for a 20 percent increase in salaries and better funding for classroom resources, according to Good Morning America. Milich said that despite her low salary at Whispering Wind — a Title 1 school that relies on federal funds — she often had to dip into her own pocket to provide supplies to her low-income students.
“It’s hard to make a decision to spend money on your home, your own kids or spend money on your school kids that desperately need the help,” the mom of three told Good Morning America. “I feel fortunate and blessed that I’m not a single mom. I have my husband’s income where I can buy [lunch] for kids that don’t have lunch for field trips but as for fun stuff, I can’t buy a set of 20 paints.”
Many across the country sympathized with Milich’s plight, but perhaps none were moved more than a New York City businessman named Ben Adam, who also happened to have the resources to help. Adam reached out to Milich on Facebook to let her know he wanted to help buy supplies for her classroom.
“I’m thinking, ‘This is crazy. This is a total stranger from New York,'” Milich told Good Morning America. “When school started, I started getting Amazon packages. I thought it was a one-time thing.”
But it wasn’t. Adam continued to deliver supplies like colored paper, books, paints, paintbrushes and snacks to Milich’s class throughout the year. Then he asked if he could help out more by “adopting” more classrooms at Whispering Wind. He went on to help five different classes at the school.
“I’m sensitive to the people that get the short end of the stick and without complaining,” Adam, a dad of three and owner of a real estate company, told Good Morning America. “Teachers work very hard and don’t get much in return.”
But Adam’s generosity didn’t stop there. Last month he launched Classroom Giving, an online organization that helps facilitate outside donations to underfunded schools. Instead of crowdsourcing funds, the site allows donors to choose items from teachers’ wishlists to send to needy schools.
“Teachers and their classrooms need supplies on an ongoing basis,” the site says, “regardless of school projects and curriculum or the generosity of relatives and friends.”
“We are not asking for donations and we are not raising any funds,” Adam told Good Morning America. “[The site] takes you to Amazon and you enter the classroom address into your Amazon address book. You send whatever you can afford and you know that item has gotten exactly to the person you sent it to.”
Adam has received requests for donations from Colorado, Washington, Alaska and California, and hopes to expand his campaign beyond that. To date, Adam and Milich have not met in person, but the teacher said if she ever does meet her benefactor, she wants to give him “a big hug.”
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