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Denver teachers donate stimulus money to help students and their families

9th grade teacher Shelby Hackney is still taking a paycheck, so she gave away what she could to help her community.

DENVER — Shelby Hackney’s current classroom is the corner of a one-bedroom apartment.

“It’s very sad. I know!” Hackney said, showing off her tiny desk over a Zoom call. “Please don’t think this is what my classroom would look like!”

Hackney teaches 9th-grade geography at Denver Center for International Studies in the Montbello neighborhood. Her workdays during COVID-19 consist of digital office hours and lots of texting and calling students.

“Don’t get me wrong. Zoom and Google Meets are great, but there’s nothing that can truly replace that kind of in-person stuff," Hackney said.

The first-year teacher made sacrifices and she knows her students did, too.

“We have a lot of students who are picking up work and trying to do the best that they can to support their family and they’ve had a hard time balancing the demands of remote learning and the demands of trying to support their families financially," she said.

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Hackney decided to take the pledge from the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) to donate to help Denver students and their families. Rather than pocket their stimulus checks from the government, teachers like Hackney gave away what they could.

“I gave away about $350 so far and I might give away a little more," Hackney said.

Tiffany Choi, president of DCTA, said 21 teachers had donated about $8,000 as of Monday afternoon. The teachers union sent a Google form to its members last week encouraging donations to several organizations.

"I donated to Sanctuary 4All, which is primarily focusing on the undocumented community," Hackney said. “Those folks work incredibly hard and they were not eligible for the stimulus check.”

Hackney is looking forward to the day she can teach her students in person. Until then, she'll teach and support them from home.

“My students are incredibly talented and resilient and they don’t (know) why yet, but I’m really hoping that once this is over, they can reflect and see how cool they are," she said.

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