celebrate kindness

Archive for September 2016

The third week of school has brought more and more visitors to the Tiny Tech Cafe! Teachers and students are starting to find their groove with weekly schedules and classes are starting to rotate through the laptop labs.

Practically every single day this week there has been a new surprise waiting for me in the Cafe. Wanda Atkinson, a retired MES teacher donated two books to our lending library and Conde Bivins let me borrow the book Awakened by Angela Watson, which I will hopefully order this coming week so other teachers can be inspired, too.

Yes, I know, it’s probably a paradox that an instructional technologist gets so excited by printed books, but there’s just something right about holding a book in your hands, flipping through the pages, filling your mind with new insights, new perspectives, or reminders of great lessons learned in the past.

We also had a few anonymous donations as well! Someone left a huge bag of chocolate with a gorgeous Starbucks mug, as well as a battery-lighted star, perfect for our Green Screen area!  

Stephanie Joyner donated some tissues and Clorox wipes and Heather Causey sent a lighted JOY sign that I can’t wait to display!

I also purchased a set of chalkboard markers so I could start personalizing the signs around the room:

My forever friend, Lisa Zader, donated a set of ceramic tea spoons that were owned by her sweet Aunt Nancy, who passed away earlier this year.

Our principal, Amy Robinson, purchased two clocks for our space: one to replace the wired clock that has long since been frozen at 9:01 and another one chosen specifically for the Tiny Tech Cafe! She even included batteries so we could use them right away!

And… Drumroll please… the Tiny Tech Cafe now has a working mini-fridge! Woooo-Hoooo! A special thanks to Suzi Tapper who sent an email to staff saying one was up for grabs – I was more than happy to claim it for the Cafe! Yay!

Little by little, piece by piece, our Tiny Tech Cafe is coming together! This week I hope to add more decorations to the walls and start ordering a few books for our lending library.

Also, Mechanicsville Elementary is hosting their Back to School Night on Thursday, September 29 from 5:30-7:30 pm. Please stop in and take a peek at the Tiny Tech Cafe! We will have a little Open House of our own before and after the PTA meeting (so 5:30-6pm and 7-7:30pm). I would love to share what YOU’VE helped create!

Thanks to each any every one of you who’ve contributed to our campaign! Your kindness means SO much! Feel free to share this blog post with others, too, so they can celebrate with us next week!


If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know all about the Tiny Tech Cafe. (If not, click here and get caught up!) 

Last Monday, my husband came to Mechanicsville Elementary and graciously donated his time and talent to putting together both the sofa, the bar-height rectangular table, and two bar stools (which I can assure you was no small feat!)

These two items, purchased with funds from our GoFundMe campaign made SUCH a difference in our Tiny Tech Cafe! It’s wonderful to have so many options to either sit or stand!

I wanted to create a natural border between the cafe section and the storage area, so I placed the bookshelf beside the sofa with some extra space left towards the wall.


Next, I placed a shower curtain rod against the side of the bookshelf all the way to the concrete wall, then used hooks to hang a fabric curtain, which blocked the view of the stacked items. I then covered the hooks with burlap to make it a little more appealing to the eye.


To add to my joy, I had several teachers stop by to bless our space with random acts of kindness! Kristi Oliver created a beautiful lighted display for the cafe saying, “As soon as I saw the words, I knew I had to make it for you.” Talk about a Kleenex moment!

Wanda Atkinson, a retired MES teacher also stopped by and donated brand new pillows for our sofa – now we can switch them out with the seasons!

We even had another kind friend donate disposable cups and lids, which have already been used by teachers on the go!


Oh my goodness! What started off as a little dream to revamp our laptop lab has truly turned into a community project of love! Thank you SO MUCH for your support!

Using funds from the GoFundMe campaign, we rewarded two deserving teachers with Starbucks gift cards at our September faculty meeting. Both Melanie Williams and Kristi Oliver (and her son, Matthew) attended eight separate professional development sessions with me last year as we learned about various iPad apps. It was a joy to pay-it-forward by thanking them for being life-long learners who are always willing to try something new!


Each day brings a new surprise as the Tiny Tech Cafe continues to evolve in its purpose. I’m delighted to see the smiling faces of students and teachers, popping their heads in to say hello, or sitting down to chat about a project, lesson, or idea.


Our campaign is still active, as we now shift our attention to purchasing educational books for teachers to stock  the Tiny Tech Cafe Lending Library. In fact, just today we received a donation from my dear forever friend, Lisa Zader, another ZTA sorority sister, who also shared our campaign on her Facebook wall stating:

“She is sowing kindness, increasing joy and motivation, and reminding people that what they do matters. Learning new ways often needs new atmospheres, new containers to contain and pass on, new perspective, and often a waking up to the fact that you can make a difference.”

Thank you to all who have donated to our Tiny Tech Cafe. Whether through a monetary contribution or donating time and items, thank you! This space would not be a reality if not for your support.

You are making a difference!

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Oh friends, what AMAZING progress we are making on the Tiny Tech Cafe!

If you’ve been following our GoFundMe campaign, you know that purchasing a sofa was a huge goal of mine for our little Cafe. Flexible seating is the crux of this project and a sofa would be a perfect addition to that vision. (It would also make a great natural border for the edge of the cafe!)

For months now I’ve been eyeing up this cute little sofa at Kroger. Yes, that’s right – Kroger! Did you know you can buy furniture there?


When I finally got enough donations in the campaign to purchase the sofa, I went back to Kroger only to discover the price had been raised substantially. Whaaaaaat?? My heart sank. Here I had precisely planned for each and every purchase using these funds and now I would have to cut something out of my budget to cover the new price of the sofa.

I. Was. Devastated.

The first person I found was Kenny Williams, who greeted me with a smile. “Let’s see what’s going on with that sofa.” He and another gentleman walked with me back to the sofa, scanned it, and sure enough – the price was increased. He looked at me a bit perplexed and suggested I come back the following Wednesday (after Labor Day) to see if the price would return to its original price.

I had someone take a photo of me and Kenny right there in the moment because he gave me hope!


That Wednesday (which was exactly one week ago today), I went back to Kroger and as luck would have it, Kenny was working that day. The sofa was still available, but the price hadn’t budged an inch. It was still listed much higher than it had been all summer.

There are times in our lives when we have to make tough decisions, and this was one of them. Kenny had heard all about my Tiny Tech Cafe fund and he knew how important this sofa was to Mechanicsville Elementary. He also had the power to hold firm to the current price or bless me with the purchase price I would have paid had I bought the sofa the previous week.

Kenny honored the lower price.


I was so excited I purchased the sofa RIGHT THEN (you should have seen me race to the self-checkout; it was QUITE a sight!) Then I realized I had created another dilemma for myself… how was I going to get the sofa from Kroger to Mechanicsville Elementary?

I left the sofa at the store, with my name and a large SOLD sign, then put out an open request on Facebook for help:


Have I mentioned lately how much I dislike asking people for help?

Let me tell you, this Tiny Tech Cafe is teaching me quite a lesson in teamwork, relationships, and community support. I am discovering that this project is SO. MUCH. BIGGER. THAN. ME!!

When you ask for help, people answer.

I had more than half a dozen people respond to my frantic plea. The first person to comment on my post was Stephen Bahen, a former MES parent (who also worked with me at Kings Dominion a million years ago, lol.) He met me the following afternoon, right after I finished leading a professional development session for my teachers, and off we drove to Kroger, ready to pick up the sofa once and for all!


We entered the store and I immediately took Stephen to the sofa on display. “C’mon, Stephen! You have GOT to sit on this sofa! It’s amazing!” Well, sit we did, side-by-side, in a grocery story full of shoppers. I turned to him and started laughing at how absurd we must look – two full-grown adults just hanging out on the store furniture!

It was in that EXACT moment, I saw a dear friend of mine approaching us with her seven-month daughter in tow.

I couldn’t make up this stuff if I tried! What were the chances?

Michelle Henry was all smiles as she saw me, surely knowing why I was there because I know she’s been following these blog posts. I invited her to sit with us and then had to take a selfie simply because the whole moment was PRICELESS!


We shared some hugs and a lot of laughter, then who should come down the aisle… but the man of the hour – Kenny Williams! He knew exactly who I was and went back to the storeroom to bring out our sofa, packed neatly in a massive cardboard box.


Ladies and gentlemen! The sofa is on its way!

As we drove from Kroger to Mechanicsville Elementary, Stephen stopped at Dunkin’ Donuts and blessed me with an iced coffee. A RAK and a sofa?? This day couldn’t get any better!

We arrived at school late in the afternoon and grabbed anyone we saw to help us move the box into the laptop lab. Kate Miller, one of our very first donors, jumped in with smiles. I was delighted to have students helping us, too, since this is for them as well!


I knew we would have to wait for the sofa to be put together (by my very handy husband), but for now it was cause for celebration!

Then… when I thought it couldn’t POSSIBLY get any better than this…

That night we received even more donations to our campaign! OH MY GOODNESS!!

My dear friend and oh-so-fun Zumba teacher, Vicki Williams, blessed us with a donation as did my next-door childhood friend, Rachael Rafferty. Neither gal is connected to Mechanicsville Elementary as a parent or student; they are simply friends of mine and members of the local community who want to be a part of something extraordinary! I am so humbled by their support.


I know – how could it POSSIBLY get ANY BETTER?!?!

Then… I received the largest donation of the entire campaign, from an anonymous donor, making this campaign fully funded!

HAPPY DANCE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! Oh my goodness! The joy!! The excitement! The realization that this is OUR project, OUR Tiny Tech Cafe, OUR gift back to our students and teachers! YOU ARE PART OF THE DREAM!

It was in this exact moment of exuberance that I KNEW this dream is so much bigger than me.

And then…

Yes… there’s more…

And then…

Just yesterday, one of my sweet ZTA sorority sisters whom I haven’t seen in more than two decades, almost matched that gigantic donation from the week before. Kim Carabetta literally brought me to tears with her contribution above and beyond all my wildest expectations!

You are not donating to a classroom. You are not donating to a piece of furniture. You are donating to a dream, a vision, a way to bring a little joy into other people’s lives. You are blessing us with flexible seating, yes, but you are creating a learning environment that lends itself to quality conversations, a welcoming smile, a listening ear.

You are helping us learn and grow in our knowledge of new things, whether it’s learning how to make a green screen video or stretching our minds by trying new strategies showcased in best-seller books like Teach Like a Pirate and Kids Deserve It.

Your donations are helping us in SO many ways.

And for this I say thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I am so blessed you are part of my tribe.

For more information on how you can support our ongoing needs, click here! We would love to add you to our list of supporters!

More updates to come… I can’t wait to show you what the sofa looks like SET UP IN THE CAFE!

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Sometimes we get so caught up in our own whirlwinds, we forget the whirlwinds of those around us. Thank goodness for Facebook and Twitter! With just a quick tap and a scroll, I can catch a glimpse of what’s happening with everyone else and realize that my issues are, in fact, just a drop in the bucket compared to someone else.

I really love using social media to stay connected with friends and family. In this fast-paced world in which we live, sometimes it’s the only lifeline I have to know when people are hurting or when there’s cause for celebration.

Today was a perfect example of the importance of being connected.

I saw this post on my Facebook feed from a gal I knew in high school (we sang together in show choir):

Oh my goodness! This is serious stuff! It’s incomprehensible to imagine someone my age, that I went to high school with, having to battle such life-changing situations.

However… There is joy in the journey! I love how my friend requested absurd balloons – how funny is THAT?! So awesome!

After work today, I stopped by the Dollar Tree and picked up a few goodies, each with a special meaning. My only purpose was to make my friends smile, so they know they mattered to me. 😊

Yep, that’s right – I bought a Princess balloon for a grown man in his 40’s who I know would rather be mud-bogging than trapped in a hospital bed with a gown that only ties in the back. Princess indeed!

I laughed all the way back to my car!

I got Mountain Dew to jump start that old heart of his with caffeine in case the surgery didn’t work. I added a box of Lifesavers as a last resort for survival. I bought a crazy-faced Pez because, well, you’re never too old to get Pez as a gift! I also bought a pack of Pez refills because NOBODY gets excited by the lemon Pez candies that come with the package. C’mon now Pez makers… Would it be too much to ask for some grape and strawberry?

Then I added two 100 Grand chocolate bars, because both my friend and her husband are worth 100 Grand to me. ❤️

The gift was received with laughter, which made me smile, too. Take time today to reach out to those around you! A quick note, a small surprise, just letting people know you care.

Who knows? Maybe one day you’ll be surprised by a Princess balloon, too. ❤️

The day after Jason delivered the bookshelf to the Tiny Tech Cafe, I arrived to see a large gift bag waiting for me. How exciting! I racked my brain trying to figure out why someone would leave me a gift (my birthday isn’t for another three weeks!)


On top of the tissue paper was a card from a fourth-grade teacher down the hall, Krista Miller. As I dug a little deeper under the tissue, I discovered a gift that made me squeal with joy – literally!

Inside the bag was a handmade throw pillow, customized with green sparkle “Joy” across the front. What a delight! (As many of you know, #joy is my #OneWord for 2016!)

I rushed down the hall to thank Krista and discovered that she had ordered it from two of our MES parents, JaNette Herndon and Jenni Mouer. This just made the pillow even MORE special! I am so appreciative of their talent and kindness!

Now I REALLY can’t wait to get the sofa put up in the lab to showcase this beautiful pillow!

Later in the week, I received an additional random act of kindness from our GT teacher, Katie Brockel. She donated a bag of sparkle ribbon and border and blessed me with more fabric and window valences for the Tiny Tech Cafe! How sweet!


I still have more posts to share about this exciting week, so check back soon! The Tiny Tech Cafe is starting to really look like a cafe!

If you would like to join in as a Tiny Tech Cafe Supporter, please click here for more information! We would love to have your support!

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This was our first official week of school and our first day on campus was filled with Cardinal love! It was such a joy to stand on the sidewalk, meeting and greeting new and returning students as they piled off the school buses, with bright smiles and eager faces.

The school mascot of Mechanicsville Elementary is a cardinal, and one of our parents, Jason Whitlock, transformed himself as the grand cardinal himself, on the sidewalk to welcome everyone back on the first day. What fun!

After the kids made their way to their classrooms, I had to sneak in and get a photo with our cardinal… because he made an amazing contribution to our Tiny Tech Cafe!

Last week, Jason’s wife, Grace, stopped me at Open House and said she wanted to bless our campaign by purchasing the bookshelf I wanted. What joy! Then, over the holiday weekend, she send me a photo as she was buying it with a note that Jason would put it together and deliver it on the first day of school. Oh my goodness – how amazing is THAT?!

The week before I had discovered a little book consignment store beside Big Lots. It caught my eye with the over-sized crate on the sidewalk and a sign saying “Free Books.” What a lovely random act of kindness! I went inside and perused a bit and found a few books I could add to the Tiny Tech Cafe. Now that we were getting a bookshelf, I could really start creating a lending library of educational books for teachers!

Sure enough, Tuesday rolled around and there was Jason, a grown man in a cardinal suit carrying a bookshelf taller than me. He brought it to the Tiny Tech Cafe and helped move it in place. I couldn’t wait to fill it up!


This REALLY got me excited because it was starting to look more and more like a cozy cafe!

As several of you know, Tuesday would have been my mother-in-law’s 69th birthday (she passed away in March of this year.) I created a little memorial area in her memory, dedicating our Tiny Tech Cafe to her. She was an MES parent almost four decades ago and in my early years as a classroom teacher she lovingly sewed fabric to make curtains, tablecloths and room dividers for my classroom. I know if she were still here with us, she would be jumping in to make our Tiny Tech Cafe a place of warmth and love.

The ceramic cardinal on top of the computer was painted by my husband’s grandmother, Vera Rapp, who at 93 years old still amazes us with her talent! Even though she lives in New York, I love that she can share in the joy of our Tiny Tech Cafe, too!

There’s a saying that when you see a cardinal, it’s a reminder of a loved one who passed away. We have lots of cardinal reminders at Mechanicsville Elementary (and in the state of Virginia, as the cardinal is our state bird.) It’s nice to know we have a cardinal watching over us in the Tiny Tech Cafe as well.

Thanks, Jason and Grace, for making my first day back with students an exceptional day!

More joy to come! Check back soon!


What an amazing week for kindness!

I received another donation to the Tiny Tech Cafe (Thanks, Heather Nunnally!) and set my sights on purchasing the “big ticket” items. Realistically, I almost have enough money to purchase the sofa and table/bar stools (which comes to $320 before taxes) and that is EXCITING! It’s really coming together! We are SO close! 🙂

Of course, my dream includes other items as well… to get enough funding to purchase a bookshelf with current education books available for checkout (any authors willing to offer one of their books?) I’m also hoping to purchase the DoInk green screen app for our 30 iPads so students can learn how to make their own green screen videos independently. (This has to be purchased directly from the Apple Volume Purchasing Plan which is why I asked for funding dollars instead of iTunes gift cards with this project.)

I have BIG DREAMS for the Tiny Tech Cafe, but for now, we will celebrate the small steps forward!

Blessings quote

As I was helping out with Open House Thursday night, a friend of mine (who is also a PTA board member) offered to purchase the bookshelf! WHAT?!?! Yes!

Grace Whitlock, who used to teach with me at Rural Point Elementary, said she was hoping to surprise me with the gift, but then worried she wouldn’t get the right one. I gave her a tour of the cafe (what’s been set up so far) and showed her exactly where the bookshelf would go. This weekend she sent me a photo of the bookshelf and let me know that her husband, Jason, was building it for me.

What. A. Blessing!!!

The week was extremely busy as I spent most of my time helping teachers getting things set up in their classrooms or ready to use for Open House. Despite being out of the computer lab most days, I was able to set up the green screen with the Command Hooks (thanks Susan Miller!), hang the Tiny Tech Cafe canvas logo on the front door, and decorate the display board outside the lab.

(For more information on the SAMR model of instruction, click here! I’m not sure who created the Starbucks example of my poster, but the coffee correlations are attributed to Jonathan Brubaker (@mia_sarx).

I also set out my Pay-It-Forward candy dish that was lovingly made by Sarah Armentrout in celebration of my 100th Random Act of Kindness blog post several years ago.

RAK mints

Next week we have team meetings, so I will have limited time in the Tiny Tech Cafe, but I hope to have all “big ticket” items in place by the end of the week! The first day of school, September 6, would have been my mother-in-law’s 69th birthday (she passed away in March), so I will have a little dedication section set up in her memory.

I would love if you would consider donating to this project, or perhaps share this update with your friends. It’s so exciting to see everything starting to come together!

More to come! Thanks to all who have donated thus far! I could have never achieved this dream without your help!

TinyTechCafeLogo - FINAL

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