Staff Spotlight: How One BVP Teacher is Giving Back

Over the past three weeks, Elementary School 1 art educator Michelle Turner has sewn and donated 250 cloth face masks (and counting) to family, friends, neighbors, and essential workers, including doctors, nurses, and other healthcare professionals at nearby hospitals.

“During a time when it’s easy to feel helpless, this is something I
can do. I could be reading, cleaning, or working on puzzles—which I look forward to doing at some point—but making these masks has been much more fulfilling. It keeps me grounded and focused when the days are long and things get scary. The endless reports on the essential workers who put themselves at risk every day for all of us keep me going.”

Michelle began making face masks about three weeks ago before the Centers for Disease Control recommended wearing cloth face coverings in public settings. It began simply enough: she researched tutorials on YouTube, selected a pattern, and gauged community interest with a Facebook post. She got a few takers, including two physicians who also happen to be BVP parents.

Fast forward one week to April 3 and new guidance issued by the Rhode Island Department of Health: wear fabric face coverings, and not surgical face masks, when venturing outside. Almost immediately, Michelle started to receive more and more inquiries from people with loved ones working on the front lines. She also took her efforts one step further, proactively reaching out to families she knew might benefit from a donation.

“I remembered speaking to an ES1 mom at the Art Show in the beginning of March about how she was preparing for the coronavirus outbreak at her hospital. I figured she may need face masks, so I reached out to her when the new guidelines were issued. After I delivered the masks, she sent me a picture of her and her colleagues wearing them. It was heartwarming!”

Healthcare professionals wearing face masks

From there, Michelle and ES1 Head of School Joy Souza reached out to ES1 teachers asking if they knew of other BVP parents in similar situations.

“We created a list, and every two days or so, I contact a couple of parents from the list, make the masks, and deliver them. They have all been overjoyed to receive the donation and share the masks with their colleagues.”

In the beginning, it took Michelle about 15 minutes to complete one mask. However, with plenty of practice—and a little help from her kids—she’s been able to cut the time down to an average of five minutes per mask.

“We haven’t eaten at the dining table in weeks. I won’t stop until I run out of materials or my sewing machine breaks!”

Interested in supporting Michelle’s effort? Search your home for the following supplies:

  • Cotton fabric (patterns or solids)
  • Materials for the ties:
    • Flat “braided” elastic ¼” or ½” wide
    • Flat headbands (usually found in Dollar Tree stores)
    • Bias tape (sewers will know what this is!)
    • Twill tape ½” or 1” wide
  • Thread (any color)

You can also click here to view Michelle’s Amazon Wish List.

“The most amazing thing about this project is, so far, I have not run out of supplies. Every time I think I’m out of something, it magically appears at my door… a baggie of elastic left on my porch, a piece of fabric brought to my door, a message about supplies waiting for me in the mailbox. Friends are checking their craft stashes and asking relatives to do the same. Overall, I’m super proud of my friends, family, and community for pulling everything together for me.”

Michelle can be reached via email: