Love Notes for Teachers

A middle-school student's small acts of kindness speak volumes.

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When Arlington schools shifted to remote learning last spring, Kenmore Middle School student Marlene Reyes noticed the toll the pandemic was taking on her teachers. She applied for and won a $250 grant from Peace First, a global nonprofit that empowers youth to cultivate a more compassionate world with tools like community support and startup funding. That’s how Reyes’ Jars of Appreciation project began.

“Several of my teachers would email us to check in on us, which was really sweet,” says the 14-year-old Westover resident. “I thought, What is something I could do to show them I appreciate them?”

With the funding, Reyes created 25 jars, which she gave to Kenmore teachers, as well as cafeteria, front office and janitorial staff. Each mason jar contained 101 carefully curated and colorful notes—a mix of the teen’s own words of encouragement and positive famous quotations—with a personalized tag tied around the top.


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Kenmore student Marlene Reyes

One of the very first jars went to her math teacher, who had gotten so frustrated during a virtual class that she cried in front of her students. Coincidentally, the first note the teacher read from the jar was an uplifting message about trying again.

“This has all been such a strange and hard time,” says Reyes’ mother, Stefanie Cruz. “I’m so proud of her for taking the time to think about her teachers and how they are feeling, too.”

After the response to her first batch of jars was so positive, Reyes applied for and won a second $250 grant, which she used to expand her efforts.

Now she sells the jars through a website she built herself, and is donating 10% of the proceeds to a rotating list of nonprofit organizations.

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Categories: People