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A lesson in selflessness

Three-fourths of the children at North Oakland’s Berkley Maynard Academy come from poverty, but they participated in the spirit of giving all the same, though a toy drive coordinated with local firefighters. Sam Humphrey, a teacher at the Aspire charter school, wrote the below account of the experience. -Katy


photo by D. Ross Cameron/Staff

Blessed with tremendous parent support that most teachers can only dream of, I had a visitor — Ms. Martha, as the kids call her — come to my class with an opportunity for my students to take part in the season of giving. She brought in flyers about Toys for Tots with the incentive of a pizza party and a visit from the Oakland Fire Department.

With the magical motivational powers of pizza in full effect, my students were immediately on board. Eventually, the lesson took a more valuable turn once students began asking who would receive the gifts. We had a discussion on giving and the importance of selflessness during the holidays, and the true meaning of the project came to light.

Gifts followed on a daily basis, and the attention turned from what was in the package to the actual act of giving.

This week, the Oakland Fire Department arrived in their fire engine, greeted with cheers from the class. After a few unsuccessful pleas to drive the truck, students lined up to proudly hand off their gifts and take a brief (yet overwhelmingly exciting) tour through the fire engine.

Even with the glitz of the big red truck and the real life firefighters, I still believe the most exciting part for the students was the pride in giving. The idealism and enthusiasm of these children is truly something we could all learn from, and it certainly has made me take a deeper reflection on the meaning of the holidays.

Mr. Humphrey’s 3rd Grade Class
Berkley Maynard Academy
An Aspire Public School
Oakland, California

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • former hills parent

    What a wonderful story about the true meaning of the holidays! Thanks,Katie, for sharing this.

  • Robert Dale

    What an inspiring story! The kids for embracing the lesson of giving and Mr. Humphrey for helping them learn it should both be commended for reminding us all to reflect on the gift of giving.