Julie Carson and Cat Lewin both learned a lot from their moms. Though they are now gone, students in one Shiloh Middle School classroom will learn because of them, too.
Carson’s mother, Diana Rich, and Lewin’s mother, Barbara Wiwcharuck, will be remembered by students for years to come every time they power up their new Google Chromebooks.
Carson’s SMS language arts classroom acquired 13 Chromebooks and a charging cart for them, all because Carson and the Lewin, the mother of one of her students, were inspired to keep the memory of their mothers alive.
Wiwcharuck was a retired science and math teacher from British Columbia. Each year on her birthday, her daughter and son-in-law make a donation to the town where she taught so that a student can have a scholarship. But she also sought a local cause.
“I was looking for something to do to pay respect to her and get her name out there — keep her memory going,” Lewin said.
Then Carson created a technology project through DonorsChoose.org, an organization that helps public school teachers fund any kind of project they have in their classrooms. Her goal was to seek funding for 10 Chromebooks for her class, of which Lewin’s son, Caden, was a part.
The timing was also around 10-year anniversary of Wiwcharuck dying from colon cancer. When Lewin caught word of the fundraising effort at her son’s school, she said she knew it was meant to be.
“I thought about doing all sorts of projects, but I kept coming back to Ms. Carson’s. And I just thought it would be a great partnership, because she needed help, and I needed to do something that would memorialize my mom, and because Caden was the grandson, too, I thought it was just the perfect marriage of the three of them,” Lewin said.
So she and her husband, Terry, made a donation, which her employer, Dress Barn, matched.
Carson said the online effort raised $2,200 total, of which the Lewin’s donated more — about $1,400, which surpassed her goal.
“I received donations from family, friends, neighbors, and parents of my students. However, there was one incredible parent (Cat Lewin), who really inspired me. All along, she was so positive I was going to reach my goal,” Carson said.
While Carson’s mother wasn’t an educator by profession, but she taught her daughter many of life’s lessons.
“She was just honest and kind and loved people. She was my teacher,” said Carson, who bought the charging cart in honor of her mother.
“What (Lewin) doesn’t know is that she, in turn, inspired me. I, too, lost my mother a few years ago and thought, ‘How can I honor her memory as well?’ I purchased, though I couldn’t really afford, a new Chromebook cart to house the new Chromebooks in her memory. I also had a plaque engraved that reads, ‘In loving memory of Barbara Wiwcharuck,’” Carson said.
The computers are already being utilized in numerous ways and allow Carson to “differentiate instruction” within the classroom for her 75 students.
“I teach language arts, so we use them for Google Classroom. That way, I can connect with the students while they are writing. I can actually watch them write and have comments immediately while they are writing in class,” Carson said.
Taking virtual field trips to places, like an author’s hometown, is one example of another use for the Chromebooks.
“If they have questions while we are in class, we can immediately look those up and find the answer or extend research. It’s endless, absolutely endless,” Carson said. “The more that technology advances they’ll be able to keep up, too. We’re putting technology in their hands — because all districts in the area, we all are struggling — and help like this from the community, we can have things at the fingertips of the students that get them ready for the 21st century,” Carson said.
Darin Loepker, SMS principal, said: “It’s such a breath of fresh air when you have parents that take an active role in their children’s education. It’s really just a sense of pride for the school.
“We’re very proud of Mrs. Carson for going ahead and getting involved with this and having enough courage to put herself out there and to do a DonorsChoose (fundraiser) and we’re also happy with Mrs. Lewin for donating and being there for us.”
Carson said she hopes the “inspiration continues,” because people may not have thought about donating to their community in memory of a loved one.
“What a great way to forward that love — we all need each other,” Carson said.