When many students began virtual learning during the pandemic, one Iowa teacher made a shocking observation. Many students had nowhere to do their work, often logging into class in bed or at their kitchen table.
Nate Evans, a seventh-grade literacy teacher from Ankeny, Iowa, knew they needed a dedicated workspace for remote learning.
In an interview with CBN News, Evans said school boards gave public school teachers explicit instructions. Teachers stressed to students the importance of creating a learning space at home. However, Evans thought this wasn’t fair to students who lacked the resources or space to thrive during virtual learning.
So, in 2020 alone, Evans and over 50 volunteers built around 600 desks for students to use at home. The teacher from Des Moines Christian School in Urbandale wanted students to have a sense of normalcy.
He knew students would get distracted if they completed assignments on the floor or at the kitchen table. Virtual learning came as a shock to most school children. But, at least having a desk would help foster a school environment.
He told Good Morning America, ”Somebody had to provide it, and I thought, ‘Why not me?'”
Motivated by his desire to help children, Evans started a Woodworking With a Purpose project. The nonprofit aims to “serve God and others by building community one piece of furniture at a time.” He started the project by building thirteen desks in the first week from his garage. Over the next few weeks, he created two hundred more for school-aged children.
He told CBN News that God continued to provide everything they needed to help the children. When he first decided to build the desks, he brought $300 to the store for supplies. He spent nearly all of it but checked his Venmo account to find $300 more in donations. Evans took that as a sign that he should help the families with remote learning.
Iowa Teacher Built Over 2,000 Desks to Help Students With Virtual Learning
Donations kept pouring into his accounts after he posted about his project on Facebook. The community donated a table saw, sanders, and a $500 gift card to Home Depot! Local businesses, lumberyards, and residents supplied tools to contribute to the mission.
As of June 18, 2022, Evans and his team of over 50 volunteers have constructed 2,149 desks. They initially hoped to build 2,020 (representing the year) and surpassed their goal by over 100 desks! Evans even launched a community build day at Ankeny Christian Church, where volunteers constructed 100 desks.
Each desk costs around $20-25 to build, and the team works on them in Evans’ garage or a storage unit. Evans told GMA they aimed to raise another $30,000 for additional materials. After they construct the desks, local educators pick them up and deliver them to needy students.
“I became a teacher to help kids. That was it. It wasn’t for the summer breaks,” he told Good Morning America. “I volunteer wherever I can. I want to see them learn and grow. Learn and grow in my classroom… I want to see them learn and grow at home too.”
In 2021, Woodworking With a Purpose expanded the movement by making thirteen hope chests for local foster children. In addition, the nonprofit bought and delivered a hundred bookshelves and over four hundred books to families in the Des Moines area. Evans revealed that he eventually hopes to help families in other states.
Evans added that many families don’t have the resources to provide bookshelves and desks for their children. The parents and children who received generous gifts during virtual learning have responded with nothing but gratitude. The school teacher said their reactions alone had been the greatest reward throughout the process.
“So many people say the desks have changed their lives,” he shared.
Even though virtual learning has ended, students still need desks to do homework and study. If you’d like to help with the cause, visit the Woodworking With a Purpose Facebook page.
Other Ways Teachers Helped During Virtual Learning
Many students had a difficult time adapting to virtual learning. Suddenly, they could no longer interact with friends or teachers in person. They had to learn via online classes and had no separation between school and home life.
Their parents had to adjust by finding babysitters while working or quitting a job to stay home with their children. The whole experience disrupted everyone’s daily routine in profound ways.
However, teachers around the globe did their best to help students adjust to the “new normal.” Shannon Anderson, a 3rd-grade teacher in Indiana, wanted to make the end-of-year project just as entertaining despite virtual learning.
Typically, students would write a book they would send to a publisher. They also created illustrations of the main characters. It helped students learn about the writing process while perfecting their skills.
When she found the company Budsies, it completely transformed the project. They create custom stuffed animals that bring book characters to life! However, the pandemic made it challenging to complete the tasks, as they couldn’t show off their Budsies via virtual learning.
So, Anderson decided to deliver the stuffed animals to each child’s home during the pandemic. This surprise made the end-of-year project fun and gave the students something to look forward to. It’s not every day you meet a teacher as dedicated as Ms. Anderson!
Final Thoughts on Teachers Who Helped Students During Remote Learning
When virtual learning started, students had to adjust to new routines rapidly. Some didn’t have access to desks or a dedicated remote learning space at home, making schoolwork difficult. When seventh-grade teacher Nate Evans realized the need for desks, he got to work building them. With a team of over fifty volunteers, they have constructed over 2,000 desks for students so far!
In addition, third grade teacher Shannon Anderson helped students by improvising on their end-of-year project. They always have a book reveal party where they get to present their books and stuffed animals. So, to make the most of virtual learning, Ms. Anderson delivered their Budsies in person. That way, they could still enjoy the project despite being physically apart.