Gisel Wybel flipped through a catalog, looking through pages of supplies teachers need, stopping every few minutes to read the item description.

Wybel, a first-time teacher at Shields Elementary School, will teach a class of second-grade students this year and wanted to find books for her class. The best part was that Wybel won’t have to purchase the books with her own money.

“I’ve never heard of something like this, where people buy supplies and do so much for teachers and a school,” Wybel, 25, said. “It’s really amazing.”

First United Methodist Church has chosen to partner with, or “adopt,” Shields Elementary School this year. By adopting the school, church members help teachers with classrooms supplies, provide items and gifts to the students, provide office supplies for school staff and volunteer throughout the year at the campus, said Linda Reeder, the chairperson of the school ministry at the church.

In the past, the church volunteered with F.W. Gross Elementary School, Reeder said. But because the F.W. Gross campus closed, the church decided to adopt Shields Elementary.

Thursday, church members hosted a luncheon for the entire staff and teachers of Shields at the fellowship hall at First United Methodist Church. Teachers and staff were treated to lunch; door prizes; and supplies for classrooms and offices, including backpacks with school supplies, hand sanitizer, paper, art supplies, notebooks and cleaning supplies.

Teachers were also given a “wish list” form to fill out along with teacher supply catalogs. The teachers were asked to list a few items they would like for their classrooms so church members could purchase the items for the teachers.

“This is our way of reaching out to the community and becoming a part of the community and helping teachers with the development of the children here,” Reeder said. “Anything we can do to help, we will be there.”

Shields principal Kelly Gabrysch is the former F.W. Gross principal. The adoption program with the First United Methodist Church was an amazing experience for the teachers and students at F.W. Gross, she said.

Throughout the year, volunteers would go to the school to read to children and would provide gifts for students at Christmas, she said. The church volunteers also funded field-day activities for the entire school, and a church staff member also hosted a mentor program for fifth-grade students.

“Anytime we needed anything, they were there for us. This is going to be such a blessing for the teachers and students at Shields, so I am excited for everyone,” Gabrysch said.

Amber Aldaco reports on education for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at or 361-580-6303.

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Education Reporter

Amber Aldaco is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She's covered various events in the Crossroads including a zoo rescue, a biker funeral and a state meeting with the governor. She enjoys singing with her significant other.

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