By Seth Daniel
There is no line item in the Chelsea School Budget for teddy bears, but just the same Berkowitz School teacher Emily Malik stood in line at a local store on the North Shore with two cart-loads of teddy bears just before Christmas.
Other shoppers in line, feeling the burn of the Christmas season drain, noticed Malik and began to wonder what she was doing.
After a few questions, several of the shoppers in line with her learned she was using her own money to buy the toys for her students in two classes of third grade special education at the Berkowitz.
“I had a lot of teddy bears,” said Malik last week, recalling the incident. “I had to fill two carts so it was drawing attention. There was one of the women who was asking me a lot of questions about it and what they were for. I told her I was a teacher.”
That woman turned out to be Brenda Furlong, who was so taken by the act of generosity for her students, that she wrote a letter to Supt. Mary Bourque highlighting what she had observed.
“Amid the crowds of frenzied and harried shoppers, one young woman certainly filled the hearts of many with her generosity and kindness,” read the letter. “She embodies and exemplifies the spirit of the season…Her shopping cart was absolutely overflowing with stuffed animals and books, puzzling many of us standing nearby to her in the check-out line. When some of us couldn’t contain our curiosity, she explained with a radiant smile that she is a teacher at a Chelsea School and was buying gifts for her two classes of special needs children. The multitude of people in line drew quiet, and many of us were stifling tears as we reflected on her charitable example.”
Malik, who is known for her smiles around the Berkowitz, is in her second year of teaching at the school. She grew up on the North Shore, graduating from Manchester-Essex High, and went to UMass Amherst for her undergraduate degree, moving on the Boston University for her Master’s Degree. That’s where she got acquainted with the Chelsea Schools when she did her student teaching at the Sokolowski School.
Malik, 25, said she knew immediately who it was, but was still surprised.
“It was surprising that she wrote a letter, but I knew right away who had written it,” said Malik. “She seemed very affected by it. Still, I was very surprised to see the letter. To me, it just wasn’t a big deal. It was something I wanted to do and what teachers at this school and many Chelsea schools do all the time. It could have been about anyone. I just happened to be the one standing next to a person who had been really affected by it.”
Supt. Mary Bourque said it is something that so many teachers in the Chelsea Schools do without fanfare or recognition, but rather they do it because the care for their students greatly. She said so many related to the letter, and she felt it was a great testament to what often happens behind the scenes in classrooms all over the city.
“I want to share with you one time when the world did see us for who we are as Chelsea educators and Chelsea staff,” she wrote in a letter to the entire teaching staff. “The world did see the big heart we hold for each and every student before us. This letter talks about Emily, but it could be written about any one of our Chelsea staff for any one of the million ways you show you care about our students. After reading this letter, you will feel good about who we are. We are Chelsea Public Schools.”
Furlong concluded her letter by writing that the small gesture was a great positive mark for Malik and the Chelsea Schools.
“When the issues of the world, the distress of political situations, the sadness of the refugee’s plights, and other sorrows can envelope us, it is the magic of someone like Ms. Malik that makes people believe in humanity, goodness and the magic of giving,” she wrote.
Berkowitz School teacher Emily Malik was highlighted in a letter to the Chelsea Schools from a woman who observed her buying loads of teddy bears for her students just before Christmas. The letter writer said such deeds bring back a belief in humanity for those who witness it. Malik said it’s something that many Chelsea teachers do all the time.