WEST JORDAN — There aren’t many teachers who do it for the money, or because it’s easy.
For Krista Gibbons, the only reason she spends her days pacing back and forth in front of a classroom of students at West Jordan Middle School is because she wants to make a difference.
“I love teaching, and it just came pretty easily, pretty naturally for me,” she said. “In middle school, they’re so tender, and they’re so trying to figure out who they are, and if you show they can succeed in anything, then it just continues like a snowball.”
Gibbons started her career here six years ago, after a stint student teaching. Since then, she’s come to call these halls “home.”
“I fell in love with the culture of our school, which is all about the kids, and helping each other,” she said. “Education’s a part of it, but it’s the whole person.”
But as much as she focuses on getting through to each child, sometimes there are obstacles. Sometimes, there are reasons certain kids aren’t paying attention.
“I talked to a student who was in just a really grumpy mood, and I was trying to be like ‘Why are we so grumpy?” Gibbons said. “He told me ‘You know, I got out of my tent,’ which immediately triggered to my teacher brain, ‘Oh no, like this poor baby’s homeless.'”
That student said he’d missed breakfast at the shelter that morning, so Gibbons did what she could.
“I gave him what little granola I had, which were my little snack storage,” she said.
But the problem was bigger than she thought. She spent the next four years bringing food for kids who would often go without when they’d leave school.
“I did all the pricing, and said, ‘Then this is how much I have to save each paycheck to make sure I can go buy,'” Gibbons said. “I don’t need to go to the movies on the weekend. I can take that fund, and I can buy something for them.”
But now, part of her classroom has transformed. She raises money for food, through a charity she calls “Gib’s Kids.”
What used to be a closet for supplies in the corner of her classroom is now an in-school food pantry. Right next to it is a file cabinet stocked with snacks and meals — open to anyone, no questions asked.
“I have lunches in the back, all my Lunchables were taken today,” Gibbons said, while rifling through the drawer. “If they need a lunch, they just come and grab it, and I have a microwave and they just heat it up.”
Gibbons says she has a regular group of hungry visitors, totaling about 30-40 each day.
Some are just looking for something to take with them to eat that night.
Her charity’s done well enough that she’s been able to expand.
“It kind of just used to be centered here,” she said, gesturing to her closet. “But since Gib’s Kids has helped raise so much money, there are pantries throughout our school.”
To some kids, the small gesture of having a place to grab some food has had a big impact.
“I’ve had a lot of students who’ve been using my pantry come back from graduating high school,” Gibbons said. “They’ve reached their potential, because they realized, ‘Hey, there’s people out there who care.'”
For Gibbons, it’s not just about handing out food, and it’s certainly not about the money. It’s about making a difference, by letting kids know someone cares.
“When a teacher says ‘I love you, I care about you, how can I help you?’ it’s not just them talking,” she said.
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