When Tonya Gonzalez, a second-year bilingual fourth grade teacher at Riverhead’s Phillips Avenue Elementary School, responded to actress Kristen Bell’s “Feature Teacher of the Week” Instagram contest in December, she never thought she would be selected.
“I couldn’t believe when she reached out to me at the end of March and said, ‘Are you ready?’” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez was ready. On March 28, Bell posted an Instagram message encouraging her fans to send school supplies to Gonzalez. The response was more than the Riverhead teacher could have hoped for.
“Boxes are still pouring in,” Gonzalez said after receiving more than 150 packages during the first week of April. Each box contained school supplies listed on Gonzalez’s Amazon Wish List that she created as part of the “Feature Teacher” contest.
“This really is a recognition for my students,” she said. “They deserve this. They work so very hard.”
Among the school supplies Gonzalez received were more than 50 chapter books, translated into Spanish for her students, as well as games, gardening supplies and an incubator for chicks. Every box also came with a special note of support addressed to Gonzalez and her students.
In addition to the boxes, NBC donated $1,000 to Phillips Avenue as part of the contest. Gonzalez said a plan for the money is being drawn up.
“My students are so grateful,” she said, noting that all of her students are working on writing thank-you notes that will be sent to all of the gracious donors.