Last Updated on August 29, 2022 by Luke Feldbrugge
The Teacher’s Resource is dedicated to supporting the whole person that is the teacher – body, mind, soul, everything. The Homes for Heroes Foundation awarded the organization a $10,000 hero grant to assist in their mission.
The range of support and resources developed by The Teacher’s Resource is impressive. From counseling, to grants, to events, to classes, to the Self-Care Backpack, this organization came out of the pandemic in 2020 firing on all cylinders. It’s a national effort to help teachers and to take care of the person behind the teacher.
Lisa Welsh, Director of the Homes for Heroes Foundation, said “The very breadth of this project is staggering. That Sonya was able to do this in two years during a national pandemic is nothing less than miraculous.”
The organization is driven by support from all over, as well as the passion of its founder, Sonya Battle. As she says, “I believe what comes from the heart, reaches the heart.” By mobilizing teachers, active and retired, to help her, the organization has made huge strides in supporting teachers. As Battle puts it, “When heroes come together, big things happen.”
Prepare to rethink what it means to really support your local teachers.
The Homes for Heroes Foundation gave a $10,000 grant to the organization to help it fulfill its mission. This Homes for Heroes Foundation grant is part of the Homes for Heroes’ Circle of Giving, providing assistance for heroes in dire need across the country.
The Teacher’s Resource Interview with Jay Flynn
Homes for Heroes Outreach Coordinator, Jay Flynn, talks to Sonya Battle of The Teacher’s Resource and our affiliate, Dawn Emery who nominated the organization. You can watch the full interview here or read the transcript of the interview below.
Jay: Hello and thanks everyone for joining us today. I’m Jay Flynn, Homes for Heroes hero outreach coordinator, and I’m joined today by Sonya Battle from The Teacher’s Resource. I’m also joined with Dawn Emery from Homes for Heroes real estate specialist, and she’s online. We’re actually here together because Sonya is just down the street from where I live here in North Carolina. We’re so blessed that Principal Brian Palmer allowed us to use the media center here at Rock Springs Elementary School for this interview.
So welcome guys. As part of the Homes for Heroes Circle of Giving, the Homes for Heroes Foundation provides grants to nonprofits whose missions are to serve our heroes in dire need. So Dawn and I are happy to share that The Teacher’s Resource is a Homes for Heroes Foundation August 2022 grant recipient. This is unusual. We usually don’t have a live studio but we have a live studio audience today, so that’s an awesome piece to it. Sonya the Homes for Heroes Foundation is honored to present The Teacher’s Resource with a $10,000 grant.
Sonya: Thank you Homes for Heroes. Dawn nominated us, and I thank you so much. I will never forget this. Thank you for seeing us, meeting me, seeing the vision, and believing and knowing that there was something there.
Jay: Thank you Sonya. We certainly owe a huge thank you to all of our teachers and educators, especially on the heels of Covid, that has just changed the way education works.
We were virtual and then we’ve had some days here, and some days not, and now we’re kind of trying to get back into the swing of things with the school system. That’s put a lot of pressure on teachers and I know that you guys have only been around since August of 2020. What a year to pick to found a foundation–right in the middle of Covid. But the really big thing is you’ve been able to help probably more than a thousand teachers so far in your mission. That is just awesome. We know that they’re facing so many new challenges today and in the world, so let’s chat a little bit about the mission and what it’s all about.
So Dawn, first of all, you’re the Homes for Heroes specialist, an affiliate that nominated The Teacher’s Resource for this grant. Tell us what led you to nominate them.
Dawn: Oh my gosh, I was so blessed. I got to help them with a back-to-school event last year. They set up tents and they did a huge giveaway at a fabulous place here in Salt Lake City, because they also do outreach here and across the country. I was so impressed by their organization, and their attention to detail, and their mission–that they really want to serve the human being behind the teacher. So many times teachers get school supplies, and other things, for their kiddos but nothing really for themselves. That’s what really impressed me about this organization. They are helping support the teacher. I saw what great work they were doing and I thought, “I have to nominate these guys because they need to keep moving forward with this mission.” I’m very proud and honored that Sonya allowed me to help out with that.
Jay: All right. So as the founder, tell me what motivated you, what led you to try and form The Teacher’s Resource.
Sonya: Well I want to start by saying that the teacher’s resource is 100% a God idea. I take no credit. I get the honor to serve. I’m so humbled by that choice. What initiated it was a friend of mine who is a teacher. When teachers went back to school during the pandemic–when they were just starting to teach at home. After that first day, he posted online “pray for teachers who were not okay,” and I did. It was in that moment, and in that prayer, that God was so kind to release this local and national vision: to take care of the person behind the teacher.
Who’s checking on our teachers mentally, emotionally, and physically? It wasn’t out there. Doing the homework and doing the research, there wasn’t a company or organization that was solely focused on providing care for the teacher. I began to just write it out and I started moving right in that moment.
Jay: That’s awesome. As the spouse of a teacher, I appreciate that because you’re exactly right: somebody needs to be there. Sometimes I feel like a counselor listening to what’s going on right now.
So Sonya in just two short years, you guys have been able to serve probably over a thousand teachers. Tell me how did you accomplish such a feat in such a short time?
Sonya: When we started in August 2020–August 11th to be exact, we turned two years old this month–we were all at home. Our teachers, a lot of people that were working in corporate America, most of us were still home. So I said, “why not just start online and start offering services that speak to the needs of our teachers.” So we sent out some surveys. We asked questions. I talked to teachers I knew. So I started what I called Live Life Sessions on Facebook. Every Thursday I would get a licensed therapist, psychologist, psychiatrist, or even a life coach motivational speaker, and they would come on and we would go live and talk to teachers about the various topics that impacted them. Topics like:
- Help I’m overwhelmed
- How do I recognize burnout
- Scheduling you for you
These were things that were key, and to my surprise teachers logged in. I think what even surprised me more is that the people came back to watch it, because we’re in different time zones. So we had people that were on, they were able to interact, ask questions, and then we had all these teachers come back. When we looked at the numbers, they kept growing. At first we reached 60, and we went back and it was 300, and then it was 700.
Then it just kept growing. From there it’s like, “Who are you all? Who is this girl talking about how she’s going to take care of the person behind the teacher? Where did The Teacher’s Resource come from?” The question they asked is “is this real?” Because unfortunately our teachers have been made a lot of promises by a lot of people and no one tends to follow through. The Teacher’s Resource is not that organization. Our commitment is not just a one-time thank you, it’s a lifetime thank you. Even that’s not enough, so from there we were able to gain an audience and teachers began to reach out and email us. They were blown away that I would think about them as a person because they unfortunately feel invisible a lot of times. So we wanted them to know that “we see you, and we hear you, and we’re here for what you need. We need you to tell us what to do.”
Facebook Live went very far. They got what they needed, they got resources. Then we connected with them even farther. We would do different things where we could send them out self-care items. Then we ask that casual question that holds so much weight: How are you doing? That’s a weighted question, right? How are you doing? And we meant that. They felt that, because I believe what comes from the heart, reaches the heart. I don’t have to do a whole big production. I can just be genuinely me, and you’ll feel it. We asked that question and they began to respond. Then we said “what do you need? What are some self-care items that you need that can take care of you, not your students?” I had a few teachers reach out and ask “Now are you asking for my teacher’s assistant?” I said “No it’s you.”
She responded, “I had to think about that question.” That makes me sad that she had to think about that. Remember that we’re here to make sure you keep yourself top of mind.
From there it was Teacher of the Month. That was huge. I thought it was so exciting that teachers from all over the USA would submit entries to nominate teachers and sponsors would give different gifts. A lot of times, I was a sponsor. We were new. It was an investment. So we would send gift cards to Amazon sometimes. We made it fun. We’re going to send $50 cash. Then they begin to see “oh, they really do care about us. They really do mean this.” So from there it was time for Teachers Appreciation Week. We called it The Big Celebration, and so we did our first Big Celebration online. We did trivia and games and prizes, and we have videos. A teacher from New York said, “I didn’t believe it, but look what I just got in the mail.” We posted her video. She said “I am blown away. You have me for life.” I said, “Spread the word because it’s better when we do it together.” When heroes come together, big things happen.
Jay: Absolutely. You know that mission that you talked about: it’s not just a one-time thank you, it’s a continuous thank you. That lines up so closely with the Homes for Heroes mission. We’re trying to thank our heroes, and it’s an ongoing effort. You talked about some self care, so I always look online and learn about who I’m going to be meeting with. One of the things that jumped out at me is the Self-Care Backpack. People can go online and send that to a teacher that they love, one that’s made a difference in their child or their lives. So talk to me a little bit about that.
Sonya: Our Self-Care Backpacks were our feature item. When we initially started, the name was the “teacher’s backpack” but I think it was kind of getting lost in translation, because when you hear backpack, you do think of kids. So I said we are a real resource and, so that’s where the Teacher’s Resource came from. With the Self-Care Backpacks, I thought “what can we do to get items to teachers that, once they leave school, once they leave the classroom, it’ll help them decompress? It will help them just have that extra moment that they need.”
I reached out to some of my friends that are licensed therapists . I asked what are some items. I want to point out that the items that are in there are not just “Oh get this, pick this.” We thought about it and we talked to professionals. There was a purpose behind it. We wanted it to make a difference, so our Self-Care Backpacks are a tool for the supporters of teachers. People say “I wish I could do more for teachers. How can I do more?” Get them a Self-Care Backpack because when they open it they have an Amazon Prime tablet, so they can connect to whatever they need to connect to for their mind, to feed their soul. If they want to listen to their music, we put a wireless bluetooth headset in there. So now you can do your exercise, you can do your yoga. You don’t have to worry about strings and plugs. We have journals. We asked the teachers “what would you like to see?” We have sleep machines in there. Some of them say “I don’t sleep at night.” So they can turn it on with whatever sound relaxes them and they can go to sleep. We have little bluetooth speakers in there. We have the sleep mask, the weighted sleep mask because we want them to get some good rest. We have the weighted blankets. We have unique journals in there. We purposely wanted something different, so when teachers get it, they think “oh somebody got me a backpack, and I’m gonna have some tablets and pens” but when they open it… I sent you a video of a teacher who got her Self-Care Backpack and was blown away by it. Because you’re not thinking that this is going to be a $250 value. Then the supporters of teachers can come and purchase it on our website and we’ll ship it anywhere in the USA to whatever teachers. One, two, ten, thirty, fifty, a thousand–whatever they wanna purchase and we’ll get it to them.
Jay: That was one of the things I wanted to make sure that we put out there. If you’re watching this video and you feel led to do something for some teachers–whether it’s one or a hundred or a thousand — you can go online. We’ll have the link to the shop page where folks can do that in the story.
Let’s kind of shift gears a little bit, and let’s get a little more serious. We talked about really supporting the person behind the teacher. We know that mental health is a huge issue, not just for our teachers, but for all the hero groups that we serve at Homes for Heroes. It’s a big deal. So tell us a little bit about some mental health resources that maybe you could share. If somebody out there is watching and they’ve had a bad month, a bad year, a bad couple years, and they don’t know what to do.
Sonya: Absolutely. It is a very serious topic and it’s something that we have to keep on the forefront for all of our heroes. I have two stories. I had a teacher reach out to us via email, and this was literally just last month, and she said “I can’t take it anymore. I need to speak with someone.” The Teacher’s Resource offers this. I didn’t put up on the site because some people will shy away. So we just say “Hey go, to the ‘contact us’ page just as you would if you wanted to reach out to us. Let us know what you need and we’ll reach out to you.” She said “I can’t take it anymore. I need help.” I was able to call on our group of licensed therapists, who have committed to volunteering. The Teacher’s Resource has what our teachers need at no cost to them. There wasn’t a fee. It wasn’t “you give us $20, and we’ll get you connected.”
She sent the email, and I sent it to the licensed therapist, and she got her number and called her immediately. And she saved a life that day. The Teacher’s Resource is here to be a safe place and a place where teachers can come and have a real support system–where they can exhale. One teacher called me and she said “I just don’t think I matter anymore. Why am I here?” Of course, I talk to her to the point where I could say “Hey can I let you talk to one of our therapist friends?” And she said, “I don’t know if that’s gonna help.” I said “Can we give it a try? I’ll stay with you, okay?” I was able to get her connected. Our teachers don’t have that right, but The Teacher’s Resource has it available for them. We are new. We’re only two years old and, to be honest with you, a lot of what you see has been an investment for me, but that’s how much I believe in the person behind the teacher. I understand the importance of them having a real support system and somebody to say “Hey I care about you,” and it’s not just something we say, it’s what we do. It’s what we walk. It’s what I breathe. That’s who I am.
Jay: Passion is the word. All right, so outside of all of those wonderful things we just talked about that are there for teachers in need, I know you guys have other programs and other resources that you are able to offer to the teachers. So talk to us a little bit about what else you have.
Sonya: So we talked about Teacher of the Week, School of the Month–those are just some things we do to keep the morale lifted for our teachers. But we also started new teacher’s training. So if you’re a new teacher and you’re graduating college, or you could be a one-to-three year teacher, we have a six week course. We are at the end of an accreditation process, because we wanted to get it accredited. We have seasoned teachers that teach it. They’re certified and they come in and teach it. We also have another program called Resilient Leaders. That’s for our retired teachers, because they come in and help too. I get excited, because I love that we have a community of resilient leaders. They’re teachers that are retired and they have so much fire and so much life and so much wisdom. We are setting up a program, and we have it now, where we assign care partners to our teachers. It’s like having a mentor. If they’re new, we don’t just put you in the six-week course to teach you classroom management, and all of the things that come along with being a new teacher. We give you a real-world view of what it’s like when you actually walk in. They are thankful for all of the manuals and instructors that tell you what to expect and how to prepare. But what my teachers are telling me is that’s not the real world when you walk in that classroom as a new teacher.
They’re going to incorporate that into the six-week program and we’re going to have it available online. Of course, if you’re in the surrounding area (Charlotte) you could come to the location. That’s a program that we’re excited about. That is changing so many lives also. With the resilient leaders, I love it when I talk to retired teachers and they say “Hey it’s good what you’re doing for the teachers. I wish there was something like that when I was teaching.” Then I say we have a program just for you: it’s called resilient leaders. So I have five retired teachers right now that are talking to me. You know anytime you’re building something locally and nationally, it’s a big feat. It’s something that takes a lot of work, a lot of sacrifice. We are excited about this opportunity and you guys nominating us, because this is going to help build this and solidify some things and make them more concrete. So thank you again Homes for Heroes and Dawn. A big portion of what you donated is going to go to a program called Blloom Now. our mission statement for The Teacher’s Resource is to provide exclusive self-care and support for teachers’ total well-being–mentally, emotionally, and physically. That’s the mission statement but the vehicle to get us there is Blloom–spelled with two l’s and two o’s. Blloom houses everything that we offer: from therapy to medical to soul to mind and even our teacher grant fund. I’m excited about it because all of that is housed in there.
I’m gonna talk a little bit about the Teachers Grant Fund because this is a fund that has been established and built for teachers if they need assistance–personally or even for their classroom. They can apply. There is a board and they will review the applications, and you can win a certain dollar amount grant that you don’t have to pay back. This is to help you if you’re facing some hard times in your personal life or you just need extra to get through as a teacher. Those are some things that are coming, and there’s more to come.
Jay: You’ve already talked to us a little bit about how the funds that the grant is going to be used. Anything you want to add about how you’re going to use this Homes for Heroes Foundation grant to further the mission of The Teacher’s Resource.
Sonya: One of the things that I would love for us to do with the funds from Homes for Heroes is I want to establish a solid network to make sure we keep our national teachers connected, as well as our local teachers. I’ve been in meetings for that. This will connect us online throughout the USA so everybody can feel a part. Because, of course, what they see is we’re based in Charlotte, North Carolina. They’re thinking “Oh that’s just for them.” No it’s for you too. This will help us establish and make clear our reach. Yes, we have a local heart with a national reach. So that’s another thing that this amazing grant from Homes for Heroes will go to.
Jay: That’s awesome–and Dawn please chime in–for us to be part of that and to help solidify that national footprint of such a wonderful mission. It just means the world to Homes for Heroes and Homes for Heroes Foundation.
Dawn: I love being a part of this organization and explaining to people that a part of every buy-and-sell goes into this foundation. It’s more than just a donation; it’s actually supporting all of these local organizations that do so much for our heroes.
Sonya: Yes, absolutely and we’re planning something for the teachers in Utah, so we’re excited about that. We’re going to give them a self-care day because they’ve stayed connected to us. They’ve stayed engaged and so I’m gonna take a trip to Salt Lake City. I can’t wait to celebrate our heroes in Utah.
Jay: Awesome, Sonya yes tell us a little bit– and we’re going to put it on the video–tell us how folks can connect with your Teacher’s Resource.
Sonya: The way you can connect, and the best way to connect, is you can go to our website. Also on social media: Instagram, Facebook at The Teacher’s Resource. Connect with us, like, follow, share, spread the word. If you are a teacher especially, connect with us and reach out to us let us know how you’re doing, what you need. We’re here for you.
Jay: Awesome. Dawn, The Teacher’s Resource is such a wonderful nonprofit supporting the teachers in need. Thank you for nominating them for this grant. Thank you so much. Everything that that you’re doing is making such a huge impact in people’s lives, and The Teacher’s Resource is really a tool to help these teachers who who may need a little boost in their morale. I’m certain the thousand plus teachers–my gosh that’s still an amazing number–that you’ve been able to help, I’m sure they’re all so thankful and appreciative for what you guys at Teacher’s Resource have done for them.
Sonya: Yes they are, and they send us emails to let us know how much they appreciate it. You are helping the teacher’s resource be true to who we say we are and what we say we’re going to do. Thank you both. Thank you Homes for Heroes. Thank you Jay and thank you Dawn.
Jay: Awesome. Like I said, it’s very unusual for us to have a live studio audience, so I’m going to turn that over to Sonya and let her kind of talk about her studio audience today. I’ll move out of the way.
Sonya: This is family and supporters. I gotta call them out and I know they’re probably gonna be like “No,” but I have to call out Derek and Tavia Jackson. They have mentored me and they have guided me in this process. They are super, amazing people, super successful people. They love God and they are an example of what I aspire to be. So I’m thankful to you all. Thank you so much publicly for everything you are to me. My friends and family: Bridgette and Phillip and Lottie. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for believing in me and all of your prayers. They are special people in my life. I believe with anything that you do, you need to have mentors, you need to have guidance, you need to have people that help keep you focused and grounded. Because I know for me, I get a little excited.
I’m thankful for your time investment today. Thanks guys for joining me.
Jay: Awesome. Thanks to all of you guys online and in person for joining me today to talk about the great things that we’re doing to support our teachers, to talk about the great things that Homes for Heroes Foundation and our Homes for Heroes affiliates are doing across the nation.
To those that may be watching, a great way to show us that you’re really into what we’re talking about is to give this video a like, give it a share. More importantly, spread the word about the good news and then leave us a comment too. That way we can interact. Be sure to tune in to future episodes, when we get together with wonderful nonprofits that we partner with at Homes for Heroes to support our nation’s heroes. We would love you to come back and join us, so I wish you all a wonderful day and remember: let’s say thank you to a hero today. Have a good day everybody.
Homes for Heroes Foundation
Grants from the Homes for Heroes Foundation are made possible by the Homes for Heroes Circle of Giving and its network of real estate professionals who are committed to providing savings on home and mortgage buy, sell and refinance transactions for firefighters, EMS, law enforcement, military (active, reserves and veterans), healthcare professionals and teachers.
Please take a moment to learn more about the Homes for Heroes Foundation and the grants it provides nonprofit organizations who help heroes in need, or simply to make a donation.