Chandra Delone says she prefers to be behind the scenes, out of the spotlight. For the past 11 years, this elementary school teacher has quietly devoted her life to educating the children who attend Crestworth Elementary School.
The Kids in Need Foundation and Georgia-Pacific, however, had other ideas.
On Thursday, the national foundation, which donates teaching supplies to teachers, and the paper company, came calling at the north Baton Rouge public school and plucked Delone from obscurity.
The surprise was unveiled at a schoolwide assembly in the auditorium at the school located at 11200 Avenue F. In November, the school named Delone its teacher of the year. On Thursday, she acquired another title: hero.
Delone seemed to take it in stride but she was clearly surprised: “I was just nervous, shocked.”
The honor came with something a bit unusual. The curtains were drawn aside on the auditorium stage to reveal stacks upon stacks of paper.
“There are 1,400 reams of paper,” explained Kristine Cohn, a senior director with the foundation. The paper, which has a wholesale value of $3,500, was manufactured just up Scenic Highway in Port Hudson at Georgia-Pacific.
“Crestworth is full of heroes,” said Taylor Bandzul, products marketing manager with Georgia Pacific. “We’re here to honor just one of them.”
Delone also received a paperweight made of crystal and shaped like an apple. And all Crestworth children received a pouch with pencils and erasers.
School counselor Ulah Lee, standing in for Principal Cleo Perry, said Delone is quite worthy of recognition.
“This lady is in this building at 7 o’clock in the morning and she is usually the last one to leave,” Lee said.
Lee said Delone is particularly good at forging personal relationships with parents and children alike.
“They just love her,” Lee said.
Delone is uncomfortable with the attention.
“I’m critical of myself,” Delone said. “I always think about others who are doing good.”
The Kids in Need Foundation estimates teachers on average spend $500 out of their own pockets each year to help their children. Delone admits she spends a lot each year on everything from pencils and erasers to decorations for her rooms and extra workbooks.
“It takes a lot to meet the needs of the kids, and the school is able to provide enough to do that,” Delone said.
Delone said one benefit of spending time building a better rapport with her children is they will work hard to please her.
“They are cute. They still like to be curious. They are sponges,” she said with a smile. “And they are happy. They will be silly. They’ll sing songs. They’re not too cool to sing with you.”
Editor’s note: The story was changed on Feb. 5, 2014 to note that 1,400 paper reans were donated to the school and that Georgia-Pacific was a partner of the Kids in Need Foundation in recognizing Delone.