The Purdue University Northwest student organization, Teachers Networking Together, recently collected and distributed hundreds of articles of clothing to help provide professional attire for PNW students entering the teaching profession.
PNW student Merrie Leigh Gable of Crown Point explained that the clothing idea came to her following a discussion in the “Family, Community, School Partnerships” class taught on the Westville campus by Mary Jane Eisenhauer, associate professor of Early Childhood Education.
“She encouraged us to look around our communities for people in need,” Gable said. “I realized that as education majors we are required to dress professionally for our first-year, student field experiences, and that requirement continues throughout our time as students. But for some students, doing so is a strain on the pocketbook.”
After thinking about the situation, Gable said she came to realize, “I can do something about it.”
Creating the “Teacher’s Closet”
Gable developed a network and started collecting donations of professional attire that could be given to students through what she called the “Teacher’s Closet.” PNW students, staff and faculty members opened up their own closets to provide clothing, coats, shoes and briefcases. Friends, family and local teachers got involved. Hundreds of items were donated.
Working on this project was a natural fit for the Teachers Networking Together (TNT) student organization.
“We support and provide resources to all PNW education students,” TNT President Kate Sech of Highland said. “We provide professional development opportunities, we volunteer in the community and we try to create a network of friends. TNT emphasizes the importance of community work and the positive impact PNW students can have on the world around us.”
Gable was thrilled that her dream of having a Teacher’s Closet would become a reality.
When the day came for the giveaway, all donated items were neatly sorted, hung and displayed. When students came in to “shop” they were thrilled with what they found.
“Everyone was so surprised and appreciative,” Gable said. “I was blown away with how grateful everyone was. It was fun to watch the looks of disbelief when we said that everything is free. I loved seeing people’s confidence grow when they put on a blazer for the first time, and their friends said how great they looked.”
Thanks to the success of this event, the TNT officers are discussing offering a Teacher’s Closet next fall semester. In the meantime they are organizing a giveaway for the spring semester, but instead of clothes, children’s books will be available so that the future teachers can start their classroom collections of books and literature.
Gable describes herself as a “non-traditional” student who will be 30-years-old when she graduates. “I have been in and out of college and tried several different majors,” she said.
After earning an associate degree in Early Childhood Development from Ivy Tech Community College, she said her professors and family members encouraged her to continue her education. When she relocated from Westfield, Ind. to Crown Point three years ago, Gable decided to pursue her degree in Early Childhood Education.
“I want to be a teacher because I love children and have a passion for education,” she said. “My sister, Jenny Phillips, told me ‘as a human being, your knowledge is the one thing that no one can take away from you.’ I never forgot that. It drove me to gain knowledge and to give knowledge to children.”
Purdue University Northwest
Purdue University Northwest (PNW), a comprehensive regional university within the Purdue University system, has two Northwest Indiana campuses in Hammond and Westville. The university was formed by the unification earlier this year of the former Purdue University Calumet and Purdue University North Central. With more than 15,000 students and nearly 70 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, Purdue Northwest is Indiana’s fifth largest public university. For more information about PNW, visit www.pnw.edu.