California Educator

April/May 2021

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L A S T F A L L Andrew Williams overheard his wife Sandra Williams, a second grade teacher, as she worked with her student Nataly in class on Zoom. "Nataly couldn't pay attention to what Sandra was saying because it was too loud at her home," Williams recalls. "She was with her siblings and mother at the kitchen table — there was nowhere else to attend class." That sparked an idea for Williams, a high school woodworking teacher and Gilroy Teachers Association member. "I thought that if she had a quiet place to study, it'd be better." He had recently been in touch with David Gunter, founder of Community Desk Project in New Mexico, who sent him instructions on constructing simple desks. Williams made a wooden desk out of plywood and two-by-fours for Nataly. He knew there were many needy families in his community whose kids could also A Desk of Their Own Gilroy teacher makes distance learning a little easier Williams built a desk for Nataly, one of his wife's second grade students. Andrew Williams Help Andrew Williams Make More Desks use desks for schoolwork and a modicum of privacy and quiet during distance learning, so he made more. He initially used his own money, then set up a GoFundMe page where others could donate to help cover his costs. "is will give [students] a space they can call their own and where they can keep their computer and supplies for school," he explains on the page. Sandra, "the artist in the family," a 33-year educator and member of Hollister Elementary School Teachers Association, paints the desks in bright colors. As of mid-February, Williams had built and given away more than 30 desks — no small feat, considering he is teaching five classes with 32 students in each class. Instructing students in woodworking and welding remotely keeps Williams, now in his fth year as a teacher, busier than ever. All the hours on the computer have been hard for him, though. "My eyes are blurry, my hands and back are hurting, I'm starting to have carpal tun- nel," he says. "I'd rather be working with tools!" Building desks lets him do exactly that. Local media coverage and social media have helped spread the word, and people have reached out. A Morgan Hill furniture company that was going out of busi- ness donated 60 desks. Williams and the mayor of Hollister, Ignacio Velazquez, stored the desks at a town venue normally used for wedding receptions and other gatherings but shuttered by the pandemic. "I put out a notice on Facebook at noon," says Williams. "By 12:15 people were lining up. By 1:10 all the desks were gone." Williams knows children and youth in his community — and in many communities — will need their own desks at home even after schools return to in-person instruction, so he's hoping for more donations to fund more desks. And he can't wait to return to school for hands-on work with his students. He laughs as he relates that his department chair is currently making a sign for his classroom: "Williams' woodshop: Beware of loud outbursts and ying tools." "I thought that if she had a quiet place to study, it'd be better." 57 A P R I L / M AY 2 0 21 C

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