Educators have been among the biggest heroes of the pandemic. Whether they’re risking their lives teaching in person or coming up with new and creative ways to keep students engaged over Zoom, school staff remain some of the most overworked and under-appreciated people in the United States.
But one preschool director’s story of going above and beyond for her students in 2020 is serving as a stark reminder as to just how broken the U.S. financial system is.
Families of students at Lynhurst Baptist Church Preschool in Indianapolis, Indiana, have been struggling with finances this year, as have been people throughout the country as the pandemic rages on. But preschool director Renee Dixon couldn’t stand the idea of any of the school’s 50 students missing out on Christmas, so she’s spent the last month buying presents and winter clothes for all of them.
But in order to do that, Dixon had to work a second job. So in November, she signed up for both Uber and Lyft and drives weeknights and weekends on top of working at the school in order to buy all the gifts.
“I never want a child to ever feel that things you dream about never, ever come true,” Dixon told Good Morning America. “Or that things you pray about never come true, or that the world isn’t fair because of their living situation.”
It’s a beautiful, thoughtful gesture from Dixon, who also explained that many of her students’ families were already below the poverty line prior to COVID-19 sweeping the nation. But some people are also expressing disdain for how broken a government system that requires children to rely on a teacher working multiple jobs in order to have winter clothing.
To add insult to injury, this “feel-good” story is also reminding people just how underpaid hardworking and self-sacrificing educators are.
The average teaching salary in Indiana is just over $51,000—less than the already dismal national average of around $60,500. And while it’s unlikely most people would simply have enough extra money lying around to buy gifts for 50 kids (and their siblings), Dixon said she was being so stringent with her own funds to make this happen that she wouldn’t even be buying presents for anyone in her own family.
Fortunately, the community learned what Dixon was doing, and some offered to chip in and even help her shop, but what’s supposed to be a “feel-good” story still ultimately just doesn’t sit right when, at its core, it exposes the cracks the most vulnerable in society are slipping through.
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