Teachers say working on the front lines of poverty is heartbreaking, rewarding

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Photo: Nick Walker, P.R.E.P. Academy Denver basketball team
Nick Walker, in the grey and black shirt in the back row, with his basketball team at P.R.E.P. Academy in Denver.

Students coming to school hungry, without warm jackets, with families working long hours: These are just a few of the challenges Colorado teachers face when they work with kids in poverty.

Many teachers try to compensate by providing kids with clothes and snacks. Others counsel students who are at risk of being caught up in gangs amid the escalating violence in northeast Denver. Teachers shared thoughts on poverty in their classroom and what they're doing through our Public Insight Network. Here's what they told us:

Candice Green, 5th grade teacher at Global Village Academy in Northglenn, on providing students with a place to work and technology:

“I open up my classroom before school and I keep my class open after school, and I tell my students, you know come in, use the computers, because most of them don’t have computers at home… or they have a computer and they don’t have a printer or they have a printer and they don’t have ink."

Nick Walker, physical education teacher at P.R.E.P. Academy in northeast Denver, on the temptation for kids to join gangs:

"I know deep down these kids do not want to be involved, but they live it...it’s in their neighborhoods, it’s in their house but there’s nothing they can do about it."

Sara Feinman, First Grade Teacher at Dora Moore School in Denver, on adding a free breakfast program at school:

"That has actually made a huge difference in behavior. Last year I would hear from students that their stomach hurt that they’re tired, and this year, I’m not hearing that nearly as much because most students are eating in the morning."