By Shawn Personke
When Katy Tinsley saw a need to support Chelsea teachers, she jumped into action.
After reading so many articles, letters to the editors, Facebook posts that reflected the growing uneasiness about kids and teachers returning to face-to-face teaching, Tinsley wanted the teachers, administrators, support staff to know, ‘Hey, we appreciate you and what you do for Chelsea kids.’
“The idea to write thank you letters came about from seeing people wondering how they could support Chelsea teachers,” said Tinsley, a 2007 CHS alum. But she was also inspired by an effort she participated in when she lived in New Orleans.
“A woman — just someone like me — created a Google form to match teachers with those willing to put together a little care package. I was connected with a teacher and dropped a care package at her home with little goodies and a nice note.”
Little gifts and words of appreciation that made that teacher’s week.
Tinsley said they exchanged emails about being thankful, the pandemic, and teaching virtually while sick with COVID-19.
“Being able to make that one-on-one connection was so valuable to me. It showed me how easy it was to help someone, and it gave me a real life story of how hard teaching has been during the pandemic instead of it just being an abstract struggle.”
So when Tinsley saw an opportunity in Chelsea, she immediately thought of her experience in New Orleans.
She first contacted her CHS classmate Alex Stacy, who now teaches at Beach Middle School, to see what he thought would be a good idea.
Stacy took the question back to the union meeting and the response was “literally anything,” laughed Tinsley, who is back home in Chelsea for a bit, after working as a wedding planner in Seattle and managing an art market in New Orleans.
“So, I figured we’d go for the easiest thing possible to make it happen as fast as possible and that is just sending words of encouragement.”
Through the Chelsea Residents in the Know Facebook group, she asked for volunteers to send a short email sending kind words of thanks and support.
With over 450 staff members, it’s not an easy task. Right now, Tinsley and her community volunteers are about a quarter of way through the list.
The initial response from Chelsea staff has been inspiring, said Tinsley. She said the volunteers we’re getting replies that said things like:
What a wonderful message to begin my zooming today! Thank you for taking the time to send this.
It is so nice to hear positive comments. Everyone in this district — custodians, bus drivers, food service workers, para-pros, administrators, teachers, maintenance staff, administrative assistants, etc. — has worked so hard and are trying to make the best of things.
Thank you for the kind words. It is always nice to get a pat on the back!
This simple act of kindness during a very complicated school year was not lost on Chelsea Superintendent Julie Helber.
“We are so thankful to our community and to Katy Tinsley for starting this ‘thank you’ movement,” Helber said. “This has been a very challenging year for our Chelsea School District staff and to be recognized and thanked means so much to us. Strong communities lift each other up during times of trouble. Thank you for lifting us up!”
For Tinsley, it’s been an opportunity to reconnect with her childhood community as an adult. It’s not the kind of place she has typically chosen to live, she noted, but through circumstance, she finds herself in Chelsea for a little while…and enjoying it, especially meeting “like-minded folks” with organizations like One World One Family, ARCY, the Chelsea Arts Initiative, and the Intergenerational Garden.
“I’ve made lots of great connections with other folks and organizations doing the important work that needs to be done in this city, I’m currently trying to be as involved and helpful as possible.”
Tinsley said she still has a lot of staff to recognize and is looking for more volunteers.
If you are interested in writing thank you notes, have other ideas on how to show community appreciation, or donating gift cards, email her at [email protected].