Lisa Morris has been teaching special education students at Guttenberg’s Anna L. Klein School for a few years, and has been looking for ways for her students to get recognition.
So earlier this year, Morris went to the website, Adopt-A-Classroom.com, that encourages businesses to officially adopt grade school classes and help them out as much as possible.
“I went to the website and just entered the information about my class,” Morris said. “I wrote that we were doing new things at the school, and that I was teaching all different levels of students.”
To Morris’ surprise, the organization gave her a check for $500 at the start of the school year to purchase necessary items for the class to use during the school year.
“It really came in handy,” Morris said. “I never expected anything.”
When time came for the Christmas season last month, Morris was contacted again, this time from the Jones Apparel Group, Inc. of New York. The clothing firm wanted to help Morris’ class by using them in their “Dear Santa” program.
‘Dear Santa…’ “The students wrote letters to Santa and they told in the letter what they wanted for Christmas,” Morris said. “I then sent the letters to Amie Watson, who works in human resources for Jones Apparel. Then the employees of Jones Apparel get a letter, and they buy the present for the child.”
Watson, who resides in Weehawken, then brought the gifts to the students, as Santa’s helper and three days before Christmas, each of the school’s 12 special education students received a present, courtesy of the program. “The kids were so excited,” Morris said. “I never expected anything like that. I thought that we would just send the letters and the kids would get something from the company. I didn’t know that the employees themselves went out and bought the presents. It was really touching the way these people went out of their way for our students.”
Guttenberg Superintendent of Schools Dr. Robert Penna was really touched by the generosity of the Jones Apparel Group.
“How can you put that feeling to words?” Penna said. “You see the children’s eyes light up, knowing that they were getting something they asked for, getting it from Santa Claus. They were giddy, happy and so appreciative. It definitely put everyone in a great Christmas spirit, right before the holidays began. It was a joy to see.”
New program Penna decided to form a special needs class this year at the school for the first time. Before, the students were either transported to other schools that had such programs or they were instructed in a same classroom as other mainstream students.
“It was a new program, and we were able to do it with very little resources,” Penna said. “Some of the kids were sent out of the district in the past, and I thought it was important for them to stay close to home, so they could receive the services that they desperately need. It didn’t cost us anything more to do. We just had to move some personnel around.”
One of those was Morris, who was able to get her own classroom and work with her students throughout the entire day, instead of just segments.
“It really means a lot to have the kids together,” Morris said. “They really are amazing kids. They deserved to have a party like this. They were all happy and shocked to receive such nice presents.”
It was only fitting in the true spirit of the holiday that these special children were touched by some special people.
“We sat down together and made big cards of appreciation,” Morris said. “We couldn’t say ‘Thank you’ enough. It really went a long way.”