Phillips 66 philanthropy for educators helps KCPS teacher equip her students for success

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Teachers often say they don’t perform their jobs with money in mind.

A program that helps classroom instructors fill their needs has come through in a big way, helping teachers get what they need to deliver lessons.

Empty classrooms didn’t change the way Mary Jo McDonald does her job. During COVID-19 remote learning, the creative teacher at Success Academy at Knotts retrofit her lessons for her first and second graders to learn online. McDonald uses flashcards, visual aids and creative video tools to get her lessons across. 

Success Academy at Knotts is part of the Kansas City Public Schools district. The secondary school offers a second chance for students who have displayed academic or behavioral problems. The school’s leaders are proud to offer at-risk students a chance for rejuvenation.

McDonald said the distancing she’s experienced in recent months is actually a positive, at least, in her learning environment.

“We’ve taken out the behavioral issue, and we’ve been doing so much more learning,” McDonald told FOX4 News. “Most of the kids who come to us are really low in reading and math. We’ve just been building that up, and building that up.”

McDonald has proven to be a positive force for the school’s mission. One instructor referred to her as being “marvelous.” Part of her drive led to her registering her classroom with Phillips 66’s Live to the Full Heroes program, a philanthropic effort where teachers seek the basics they can’t afford for their classrooms. 

Philips 66’s Live to the Full Heroes program answered McDonald’s need, and those expressed by others in the Kansas City metro. Phillips 66 is donating $66,000 toward teacher needs locally, including $600 needed for McDonald to complete a project she’s constructed for her students.

McDonald said she’s receiving lap desks for her students, which will give them a dedicated workspace at their homes. Also, McDonald’s students will obtain new headphones, which will help them focus on assignments, as well as protective devices for their take-home computer tablets.

“It’s big because kids don’t have to worry about traveling with their tablets.  They won’t have to worry about being able to hear. Even having the tables at home — they’ll have their tablets on the tables. They won’t have to worry about someone stepping on it,” McDonald said.

“It feels more structured. They’re not laying around or feeling like they’re just doing. No, you’re at school now,” Jameshia Lane, a paraprofessional in McDonald’s classroom, said.

One of the biggest concerns with take-home tablets is making sure they’re not broken, according to teachers at Success Academy at Knott. McDonald said some of the donated dollars will go toward more protectors for tablets because students have missed virtual classes while their gadgets are down.

“We always are looking for people like Phillips 66 who are generous enough to supply for us. There’s no other way we’d have gotten these supplies,” McDonald said.

Elementary school students in the Kansas City Public School district are about to return to the classroom. On Monday, students in kindergarten through third grade will be back in their respective classrooms. Fourth through sixth graders will be back on Monday March 22nd. They’ll be back on campus four days per week, for the time being.

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