Support and Supplies for TeachersDecember, 2019
story and photos By Stacy Milbouer and Tom Long
Fiddlehead Contributing Editors
Mary Doherty is not one to ignore a problem. When she saw teachers reaching into their own pockets and struggling to provide students with adequate supplies, she didn’t just commiserate, she committed herself to finding a solution.
“I’ve been a lunch buddy to second-graders for years, and I would constantly hear teachers talk about their struggles,” Doherty said recently. “So, I decided to do something to help our teachers who work so hard and don’t get a lot of support.”
Earlier this year Doherty founded TAPP, or Teachers and Paws Project, a nonprofit that provides free or low-cost supplies and educational opportunities for teachers and champions and a form of curriculum she calls “humane education.” She funds the organization through donations and a thrift store.
TAPP is located in an industrial complex at 472 Amherst St. in Nashua. It is divided into two storefronts: TAPP Teachers Resource Center and TAPPestry Thrift Store.
The thrift store is stocked by donations. A recent visit found clothes, jewelry, toys, books, furniture, artwork and even a four-poster bed or two. The shop is meticulously organized and artfully staged in happy, homey vignettes. One feels like they could happily live there.
The proceeds from the thrift store help fund TAPP Teachers Resource Center, which offers free, or highly discounted supplies for teachers and professional development classes for educators in the southern New Hampshire area. Member dues are $20 annually for first-year teachers and $35 for all other educators.
“The purpose (of TAPP) is to provide completely free or extremely low-cost products for teachers,” Doherty said.
The organization’s aim, according to its mission statement, is to “promote earth-friendly and humane education, ensure students and classrooms have the necessary tools needed for learning” and “shift the community’s surplus supplies to our teachers and educators regardless of economic status.”hero
TAPP defines humane education as “the use of education to nurture compassion and respect,” through “innovative solutions-driven efforts to create a better world for people, animals and the environment” and “encourages compassions, respect, empathy and tolerance.”
TAPP hopes to partner with the Kids in Need Foundation, a national group that provides supplies to schools and takes advantage of its size to get discounts.
Doherty is president of the organization which she operates with her family and other volunteers in addition to working full time as a supervisor of acquisition at the U.S. Department of Transportation in Boston. Her mom, Maxine Doherty, retired director of the center for lifelong learning at the University of Albama/Huntsville is TAPP’s webmaster from her home in Alabama. Her aunts, Kathy Ennis and Caroline Kemezys, are also involved, as well as other relatives and a devoted group of volunteers.
“My whole family is committed to the mission,” Doherty said.
A recent visit to the center found racks of pens, pencils, notebooks, sanitizing wipes and craft supplies. There were party packs of plastic cutlery, handmade wooden dinosaur puzzles, vocabulary books, magazines and even brand-new USB drives sold for $1 each.
“We have lots of fun stuff. One class is making a robot out of donated wood blocks,” Doherty said. “We had a teacher visit for the first time yesterday and she left with three bags of supplies. She was so excited to be able to outfit her classroom.”
Then there was the woman who brought in some handmade crocheted children’s hats and scarves.
“She said her mom wanted to do more, so she made all these and is making more. Teachers said they can really use these when students come in on cold days without these items to keep them warm.”
She also spoke of a retired teacher who came in from the south of Boston with 12 boxes of supplies to donate. “We are lucky to have the support of many members of the education community,” she said.
But there’s even more to TAPP then that. There is a room in the back of the building that’s used for teaching personal development classes necessary to maintain teachers’ certifications. The room is state-of-the art with modern, high-end comfortable chairs which Doherty said the teachers love.
“They’re so used to sitting on tiny student chairs for hours on end. They really appreciate it,” she said.
Although she’s reluctant to say so, Doherty and her family donated their own personal funds to establish TAPP.
“It was something we all felt passionately about,” she said.
For more information, visit teachersandpaws.org.