Today I would like to introduce you to someone very special. In my opinion, she’s a local hero (although she’d be embarrassed if I called her that because she’s so humble)
Rita Hewett–she’s a retired Elementary Teacher. She also started a fabulous program to give children a book AND a matching stuffed toy who would otherwise not even own a book, it’s called simply The Book Giveaway Program.
Here’s her interview…
Please tell me something about yourself…what grade did you teach?
I grew up in Chicago, Illinois. I went to Chicago State University for my undergraduate degree and got my graduate degree from Governors State University both in Early Childhood Education. I taught 7 years in Chicago teaching kindergarten to fourth grade. I moved to Florida and taught Title 1 and the rest of my teaching years in kindergarten. I did teach as an Adjunct for 1 semester at a local college on Children’s Literature, Math, and Science. I am retired from my 38 years of teaching career. Teaching was not a job to me, it was a passion, and I loved it!
What made you decide to become a teacher?
I was a babysitter, and worked in my church’s nursery since I was 12 years old. I loved working with children. What better field of a career to go into than what I love to do?!
What was the best thing about being a teacher?
What I loved best about teaching is teaching young children something new for life. I love to teach skills they would use to make their future a success. I love to make every lesson exciting that the children want to come back and say what are going to learn today. It gave me great satisfaction to watch the children’s faces smile and light up with the joys of learning.
What was the worst thing about teaching?
The worst thing about teaching for me was children’s behavior. Their behavior became such a challenge to teach. Children are coming to school with too many issues beyond our control. I believe that if the appropriate lessons and tests were given, their challenged behavior would be minimized.
When you retired, what made you decide to start the Book Give Away Program?
After I retired I joined the Brevard Federation of Teachers the Retired (BFTR) chapter.
We were giving books to a school from a book club. Every child got the same book. Many boys did not like the book. I wanted to get rid of my teaching materials I had stored in my house. I knew I had many books and items. I told the group that next time I will bring my books and stuffed animals that match with the book. It was a great success. All the children picked a book that interested them. Then, we did another school and another and it became our new program.
How have you gotten the word out about the program?
We call a Title 1 school up and ask if they would like free but used books. They all were very excited to get the books for their students. A lady over heard me tell someone about our program and she asked if she and a friend could join us. They helped get many books and stuffed animals from people they knew and the clubs they were in. I asked my retired friends, parents, and church members. We also bought or they gave us some from thrift stores.
How many people are involved?
Total of 5 people from the BFTR
What do you most need help with now?
We need a storage place for the books, items, and space for us to work in. We need 1 and 2 gallon size clear plastic zipped locked baggies. We also need young children’s books for ages 4 to 6 years old. We use recycled books and stuffed animals that are gently used or new items. They are washed and dried. We need people to help get the materials, match the stuffed animals to books and put into the clear bags and then 10 in larger bags to store away.
Is there a way to contact me?
Contact the BFT Office. (321) 636-3323 Tell them it is about the Book Give Away.
What has been your favorite thing about starting this program?
I love to see how excited the children are to select the book they are interested in. I like to see the children waiting in line talking about their book.
What else do you do in the community?
I am a member of the League of Women Voters, I tutor sometimes, I volunteer in my church, Drive seniors to appointments, belonged to a neighborhood watch, and I help out in a library’s children program.
Thank you, Rita, for taking part in this interview and all the wonderful things you are doing to make your community a better place to live! You’re my local hero!!