Teacher / Classroom Initiative
NOMINATE YOUR FAVORITE TEACHER
By Brianna Childers Topeka Capitol Journal
Posted Jul 31, 2020 at 4:04 PM
Country musician Jake Gill was sitting in a restaurant one day when he overheard a group of
teachers talking about what the upcoming school year would look and feel like.
As he listened to them talk about the uncertainty, he heard them begin to discuss how they
would be paying out of pocket to purchase their classroom supplies.
“I heard that and I kind of butted in and I introduced myself and said, ‘Listen, I overheard your
conversation and is this normal?’ ” Gill said. ”‘You guys are paying out of pocket for
classroom supplies?’ They kind of laughed and informed me they have always done that
since they graduated college, that school budgets have been short and they are limited on
what they can buy. I was just floored by that.”
That realization led Gill, originally from Hutchinson, to create a new initiative that assists
teachers who are in need of classroom supplies.
The Country Music Teacher/Classroom Initiative, which chooses teachers from a nationwide
pool of nominees, has already helped Topeka teacher Jenn Murphy McDaniel.
Once teachers are selected, Gill said, they create an Amazon wish list that is then distributed
via social media for others to purchase.
Those wanting to nominate a teacher can visit jakegill.net.
McDaniel, a fifth-grade teacher at Williams Science and Fine Arts Magnet School, said items
on her wish list include beanbag chairs, pencils, dry erase markers and classroom
decorations. Her list can be found at https://amzn.to/2Pf01A4.
McDaniel said it means a lot to her that someone wants to help her with the cost of school
“I’m the kind of teacher that if I need something and I’m the only way my students are going to
be able to get it, then I’ll do it even if that puts me out for the month,” McDaniel said. “So to
have somebody who has different public influences and things of that nature say, ‘Hey we
want to back you, we want to support you,’ that’s pretty awesome. It makes you really feel
good about community involvement and that somebody actually desires to have you succeed
in your classroom and have the kids succeed, too.”
Gill said the initiative so far has helped almost 60 classrooms with supplies.
In addition to assisting with school supplies, each classroom that benefits from the initiative
will also receive an in-person or video conference songwriting session with Gill.
During those songwriting sessions, Gill will work with the students to create a song about
whatever topic they choose.
Gill said he enjoys being able to interact with the students.
“Well, I’m naturally an entertainer and I have written songs for eight years now, and I realize
the importance of being able to express your feelings, your emotions in a healthy, outward
way,” Gill said.
As a teacher who incorporates music into her classroom, McDaniel said, she is excited for the
opportunity to bring music to her students through a different outlet.
“I often will sing at the kids, especially if they are not paying attention to me for whatever
reason, they’ve totally zoned me out, I’ve found that I can get them back by singing at them,”
McDaniel said. “I look forward to that collaboration because it’s a way for me to express my
music interest as well and to connect with my students on a whole other level, too. I’m always
looking to be able to make real world connections with my students in any way that I can,
whether that means to help them understand a specific concept or just to connect with them
to build a deeper rapport.”
Gill, who has performed for a few years at the Heartland Stampede — previously known as
the Country Stampede — said being able to bring the initiative to Kansas and Topeka
through McDaniel means a lot to him.
“Jenn’s a great gal,” Gill said. “Topeka is a great area for country music. Where else better to
start this in this area than the state capital?”
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