The School Zone: News

Shadow Oaks Elementary teacher Marinela Serrano


More than 90 Shadow Oaks Elementary teachers are smiling a bit bigger at the start of this school year.

Each received a $20 Amazon gift card “get something fun or useful” for their classrooms, thanks to the generosity of Access Church, a church located down the street from the school in Spring Branch ISD. Teachers and staff also received uplifting notes from members of the church.

“Our community wanted to offer these words of encouragement to you and this gift card as a token of our appreciation for all the hard work and resilience you’ve shown amidst this pandemic,” wrote Pastor John Lin in his personalized thank you notes to the Shadow Oaks staff. “You continue to show up, serve and sacrifice. You all are heroes.”

The pastor has a special connection to the school; he volunteered there last year as a reader in some first grade classrooms.

“Teachers were so pleased to receive the tokens of appreciation from our community partner,” said Shadow Oaks Principal Julie Baggerly.

Across the campus, books and other supplies purchased with the gift cards are already in use in classrooms.

“I bought a new book for the speech room library and we will be doing a book unit with it for the first couple weeks of school,” said teacher Katie Mikeska.

Abby Walker, SBISD’s Coordinator for Strategic Partnerships and Volunteers, facilitated the donation of gift cards. The words of encouragement the church members wrote were icing on the cake.

“We are so grateful to Access Church for going beyond to show their appreciation to the Shadow Oaks team,” said Walker. “In ordinary times and in these extraordinary times, knowing our community partners are cheering them on means so much!”

Church member Victor Chiao said in his note of thanks and encouragement to the Shadow Oaks staff, “Thank you for committing to bettering the lives of your students, their families and the community around you, even more so during these trying times.”

“Whether you’ll be doing in-person or distance instruction, thank you for your tremendous commitment to the students at Shadow Oaks,” said another member of Access Church.

“As a parent myself, I am so grateful for your faithfulness and hard work inside and outside the classroom. Neither one is easy!”

Thank you, Access Church, for the kindness and encouragement provided to the Shadow Oaks Elementary staff. 

Knowing the community recognizes and supports the hard work of teachers and staff is so uplifting. If your organization would like to provide encouragement to employees at an SBISD campus, please contact

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