Laura Ciervo, a preschool and elementary school-based speech language pathologist in New Jersey, had created an Amazon wish list of school supplies for the upcoming year.
While many schools opted to continue distance learning amid a pandemic, Ciervo’s school reopened its doors. That meant Ciervo needed to reinvest in supplies for her classroom. She normally dishes out her own money on them. But with the pandemic, that would mean spending way more than usual, because children are no longer able to share supplies.
She knew she needed some help — so she decided to randomly reach out to one of her favorite celebrities on Instagram — comedian Erin Foster — to see if she’d respond.
Much to her surprise, Foster, who has more than half a million followers, replied to the direct message — and was happy to help. She shared Ciervo’s list on her Instagram on August 18.
“If you have a big following, you have an opportunity, not an obligation, but an opportunity to do something important with it where you can,” Foster told CNN. “If you overwhelm people with too much they won’t want to help because it loses its effect. You have to be selective so that people pay attention to it.”
Foster, who has more than half a million followers, tends to stick with comical and self-deprecating content of her and her famous sister, Sara Foster. But she’s also known to engage with her fans online — and after seeing Ciervo’s request, she knew her followers would step up.
“People really appreciate kindness towards teachers,” Foster said. “That’s sort of a universally understood thing. Everyone’s had a teacher that’s had an impact on them, and everyone knows that teachers have a tough time surviving on their pay.”
Ciervo couldn’t believe it.
“When she responded to me that she’d be happy to share my list, I freaked out,” she told CNN. “Not only would I hopefully be getting some great things for my students, but I also had to play it cool and not totally fan girl.”
Since her wish list was shared by Foster on Instagram, Ciervo has received more than 100 packages containing books, games and other learning resources.
“Many of the packages came with notes,” Ciervo said. “One read ‘I follow Erin Foster and my sister has downs. Thank you for your heart to teach and love all those kids.’ That one was really special.”
She said this act of kindness is exactly what she needed heading into what is sure to be a very challenging school year.
“I have always said, it takes a village,” she said. “I just didn’t realize how far and wide my village would be.”
In just three weeks, Foster said she has received 400 messages from teachers across the US, also asking for her help after seeing her share Ciervo’s list.
Samantha Truax, a 5th grade teacher in Minneapolis, was among those who also reached out to the comedian.
Truax said she has had many students that have been affected by recent events in her community, including the pandemic and George Floyd’s killing. So, she decided she wanted to make some changes within her classroom library.
“My library lacked books showcasing diversity,” she told CNN. “I want to display each of my students’ backgrounds and cultures through the books they will be reading.”
Knowing how expensive it would be to stock her library with new books, Truax took to social media for help.
“I never thought in a million years that I would get a shout out by Erin Foster for my Amazon wish list,” she said.
After successfully sharing 17 teachers’ wish lists, Foster said she plans to reach out to her celebrity friends with big followings and ask for help in sharing as many more lists as they can.