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Serena Hills teacher recognized for implementing meal delivery plan during pandemic

When Flossmoor School District 161 buildings started shutting down last spring amid the first wave of statewide lockdowns related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Homewood resident Amy Sizemore-Green jumped into action.

A special education teacher for Serena Hills Elementary School in Flossmoor School District 161, she knew that students who relied upon the school’s free and reduced lunch program were about to face some major challenges with remote learning.

With so much changing in those early days of the pandemic, the meals were not on many people’s minds, Sizemore-Green said. So, she reached out to Superintendent Dana Smith and started discussing possibilities. He was thankful to have someone so willing to step up to address the need. Soon, Sizemore-Green was loading her car regularly with meals and making sure they found their way to Serena Hills families in need.

“I just acted on instinct and did what I needed to do,” Sizemore-Green said. “It didn’t seem like a big deal.”

Serena Hills Elementary special education teacher Amy Sizemore-Green has been loading her car regularly with food for families in need. (Photo provided)

Those closest to her saw it as a big deal. They viewed Sizemore-Green as someone going above and beyond in a time of need. Her principal, Elizabeth Reich, nominated her for the LifeChanger of the Year honor, which recognizes K-12 educators and school employees who are making “a significant difference in the lives of students by exemplifying excellence, positive influence and leadership,” according to sponsor National Life Group.

“In education, we talk a lot about ‘the whole child.’ Amy doesn’t just stop at the whole child,” Reich wrote in her nomination letter. “She makes sure the whole community gets what they need. That’s her way. Whether it’s extended time on a test, fewer choices in a word bank, clean clothes, a place to talk or bread and milk, students get what they need in order to feel loved, safe, capable, nourished and whole.”

This spring, she was honored by the national organization for her efforts.

“It was awesome,” Sizemore-Green said. “I didn’t expect it at all.”

Amy Sizemore-Green worked with Flossmoor School District 161, Marian Catholic High School and local restaurants to procure food for families in need during the pandemic. (Photo provided)

Sizemore-Green said there are families with which she checks in regularly. When the pandemic started, she quickly identified food as a common concern.

“I knew they were going to have some needs that weren’t being met,” she said.

Serena Hills works with Blessings in a Backpack, a nonprofit that helps to feed children on the weekends, so it had a “modest” stock of food available for students, according to a news release from the district.

But Sizemore-Green also teamed up with Marian Catholic High School and several local restaurants to secure more meals for district families in need. She started hand-delivering the food, spending a big part of her day driving from home to home. She is still doing so every Saturday.

Amy Sizemore-Green was recently recognized with the National LifeChanger of the Year honor for her work to support students during the pandemic. (Photo provided)

As much as the LifeChanger recognition means to Sizemore-Green, the bigger reward may be the appreciative texts she said she regularly gets from families. She also got to share in the excitement of the children along her journey.

“At the beginning, every day there would be certain houses where the kids would be in the windows, waiting for me,” she said. “I’ve met so many people.”

Sizemore-Green said the pandemic has changed the way many families see the work teachers do. But there is nothing particularly new about her philosophy for addressing the well-being of her students — just some changes to the methods.

“They are seeing us in a different light,” Sizemore-Green said. “This is what I’ve always seen myself to be. It’s super-cool people are recognizing it and seeing it as important.

“We can’t do anything with our kids until their basic needs are met. That’s always been my priority before we get to the academics.”

Sizemore-Green is unsure how many total meals she has delivered over the past year, but some days she dropped off as many as 30. She realizes, even then, she may not have changed the course of their lives, but at least she added something positive to their days, especially during a tough year.

Sizemore-Green plans to put her $500 in prize money toward continued support of her students. She is working with Love Fridge, a mutual aid group that places community-sustained refrigerators where people who need them can find food — think a Little Free Library that dispenses nourishment rather than literature — to continue to meet the needs of the area.

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