You are here

Recipient Spotlight: Philadelphia Head Start’s Debra Miller

Debra Miller, a Philadelphia-based teacher and enthusiastic supporter of Second Chance Toys, generously took some time to answer some questions about how SCT makes a difference in the lives on her students.

As Ms. Miller explains below, every little bit helps in the classroom, as oftentimes school districts cannot afford to provide all of the resources needed for and by students.

What did you wish more people knew about teachers and the overall profession today?

Debra Miller: I wish people understood how hard teachers work.  It's not just the hours in the classroom. It's planning and individualizing lessons so that each child gets the information in ways that are easy for them to comprehend.  Children come into a classroom with different levels of what they know.  Some children have been exposed to things outside their neighborhood while other live their life in a six block radius and never experience anything different.  It takes a lot of time at home to coordinate lessons and teach individually and in small groups, which is what the district is moving to.

How did you first learn about Second Chance Toys?

D: I received a letter in the mail from Craig Scott and his children about 10 years ago when they were first starting Second Chance Toys.  I was the Head Teacher at a school district of Philadelphia, a site of Head Start. We had 114 children, all low income in the middle of North Philadelphia.  Any donation we received was greatly appreciated.

When did you first get involved with Second Chance Toys?

D: I responded and spoke to Mr. Scott.  His involvement was tremendous.  We arranged for a toy delivery for Christmas.  The 1-800-GOT-JUNK? Truck arrived with bags and bags and bags and bags of toys.  We were able to fill up an entire room with toys for the children to come in and select any toy they wanted.  I cannot tell you how wonderful it was. The looks on the children's faces and their pride in their selection was amazing. This participation continued for the next eight years until the school district closed that site. I contacted Mr. Scott to let him know that Trinidad had closed and I was now at another Head Start in an elementary school.  He was so nice to continue the generous donations at my new location.  

What is your favorite part about being involved with Second Chance Toys?

D: This is a wonderful team of people that work tirelessly to ensure that low income children receive good quality recycled toys that are brand new toys to them.  Many of these children come from single parent households with many brothers and sisters, and have little money left to buy toys.  My classroom children receive toys every year. 

Is there a toy or item that's been donated that has especially meant a lot?

D: We had a little boy this year who was extremely developmentally-delayed, and had no communicable language, along with several other special needs.  We received a multi-purpose play cube that contained a bead on three different wires that were curly, humpy, windy, on one side, another side of the cube had different shapes that spun around, another side had bells, and buttons and knobs to turn and each one created another sound, and so on. We knew this was the perfect toy for this child. He sat for an hour on the floor after he received it just playing and exploring.  It was the longest time he sat still and focused on anything for that long.

What sorts of items are most useful to receive in donation drives?

D: Anything. Remember , most of these children have nothing. The girls love kitchens, doll houses, carriages, anything Dora and Barbie. The boys love cars and trucks and basketball hoops, and Spiderman and Batman, bikes. But truly just anything they get to pick and take home and call their own is enough for them.  

Finally, how can someone be most helpful to a teacher like yourself?

D: Teachers have very little supplies and buy most of the things for their classrooms and necessities for their children themselves. I buy my children pencils, composition books, pencil boxes every September, and throughout the year we buy supplies to enhance our lessons. There are never enough books in a classroom for the children to read and take home and love. A teacher is grateful for any donations,  she will always find a use for anything.

Author: Darren Paltrowitz, Music & Media Licensing at Viacom