“Have you seen Mr. Maset?” Bayonne High School Student Council President Ashley Buchanan asked, sticking her head into one of the classrooms on the north side of school.
“He isn’t here,” said Deirdre Hurley, who teaches Advanced Placement U.S. History II within the English/history interdisciplinary honors program with Timothy Maset. “Have you tried looking in the cafeteria?”
This was the first stop in a search through the school for Maset, who had won honors of his own in a recent contest to raise funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy. As a prize for his popularity, he got to wear a turkey costume and spent a whole day engaged in fundraising efforts to secure help for those most in need in the community.
While a full-grown man dressed from head to toe as a turkey might have seemed hard to miss, Buchanan – just prior to lunch – was unable to locate him.
Called “Turk a Teacher,” the fundraiser was conceived shortly after students got back to the high school after the storm hit on Oct. 31.
“We had six teachers and whoever had the most feathers had to dress up as a turkey,” Buchanan said. “We were asking people to buy feathers which were 50 cents and they had to pick the teacher they would want to dress up as a turkey. And on that feather they would write what they were thankful for. We were trying to keep it in the theme of Thanksgiving.”
They attached these to a progress chart so that kids could see which teacher was winning.
The idea, she said, was the Student Council Board’s collectively. At a meeting before launching the fundraiser, the students sat down and tried to figure out some ideas.
“We wanted to see what we could do that was creative and one of our members on the charity board came up with this,” she said. “We had to ask the teachers first.”
Maset, of course, knew how silly he would look dressed up as a turkey.
“I had initially sad ‘no’ to it because who in their right mind would ever place themselves in a position to have to dress as a turkey all day?” he said. “However, once I found out it was for Hurricane Sandy I viewed it in a different light. My parents had [note the past tense] a shore-house in Brick which was wiped out; an uncle had a tree fall through his house; and countless other friends and family members had stories just as bad, if not worse. Additionally, I don’t think anyone who saw the devastation could walk away unmoved. So with that in mind, I decided that if Hurricane Sandy’s largest direct impact on me was wearing a turkey suit, I had, in all reality, gotten off very easy.”
Of course, with other teachers in the race, Maset still held out hope that he would not be the winner of the coveted title of Turk-A-Teacher.
“Obviously my optimism was unfounded, and I assign too much homework,” he said. “In a week I had accumulated 274 votes, more than double the second place finisher and more than all votes cast for other candidates combined. As I became resigned to my fate, I decided to run with it and do as much good as possible.” This led to more money-generating ideas for the fundraiser, including taking a picture with Maset for a dollar apiece and a hot chocolate sale by the Student Council.
“My students were delighted to see my in front of class in that ridiculous costume and took great pleasure in getting a lasting photograph of me as a turkey.” He added, laughing, “I am a little concerned about the number of people coming up to me today commenting that they liked me more dressed as a turkey.”
He continued his day going from classroom to classroom to explain the fundraiser and to offer pictures. During lunch, he says, he stationed himself in the main cafeteria to ask for students’ help and donations toward the cause.
“There is undoubtedly some embarrassment, but when placed into the larger context of why it was done and what had occurred here in New Jersey, it really is insignificant.” – Tim Maset
One of a number of fundraisers
This was one of a number of fundraisers conducted to help with fundraising, by a very well-organized student council. Chairpersons from the council went out into the school during the cafeteria periods to pitch the idea and sell feathers
“It was very popular,” Buchanan said. “A lot of people were buying feathers.”
There were even other teachers buying feathers for the teacher they thought they would like to see dressed up as a turkey.
“Some of the teachers claim this is the most fun they ever had,” she said. “Mr. Maset is very well known and so is Mr. Woods [the runner-up]. Students were looking forward to seeing Mr. Maset in the turkey suit.”
Martin Gurczeski, the advisor to the Student Council, said that the students were in constant communication with one another to ensure that they were okay, and to start developing ideas for fundraisers.
“Ashley Buchanan and Sara Boutrs [vice president] have been a dynamic pair during the entire process,” he said. “The idea itself came from our Charity Chairperson Anastasia Turin. The posters and PR end were a group effort, but it was lead by Emily Cubilete. She utilized our Twitter account, morning announcements, flyers, and word of mouth advertisement to get the word out. The students have used this horrific and devastating event to recognize that when in time of need, there needs to be a group of individuals who can peacefully and confidently lead. The morale of the school was down as a result of the mental, physical, and emotional stress attributed to the storm. After the fundraiser was announced, the morale of the building did a full 180, not only for the students but for the faculty as well.”
The fundraiser began on Nov. 19 and concluded on Nov. 30. There were several levels of the fundraiser which included the sale of the feathers for 50 cents, the sale of hot chocolate for $1, the sale of pictures with the turkey for $1, and donations from individuals.
“The feathers that were sold by our 37 members of the executive board will be hung up as they also contain messages of what the individual students were thankful for this holiday season,” Gurczeski said.
The final total for the Turk-a-Teacher fundraiser was a little over $650, $500 of which was raised through the winner Mr. Tim Maset. When coupled with the Zumba-thon fundraiser to be held on Dec. 6, the BEE Generous drive, and the Sandy Shower (an offering of gifts, gift cards, and cash for teachers at BHS that were directly affected by the storm, the Student Council estimated that they will receive a total of $2,000 to help those in need.
“We are working to determine where the proceeds will end up, but a portion of the money raised will be sent to the Hurricane Sandy New Jersey Relief Fund,” Gurczeski said.
A lesson learned
Hurley said she’s tried to fit this fundraiser into her lessons by asking students to write about how they would change themselves and thus change the world.
But the experience left more than just the students with lessons on life. Maset, who has been teaching for 10 years and is a lifelong resident of Bayonne, said he had a lot of feelings about the experience.
“There is undoubtedly some embarrassment, but when placed into the larger context of why it was done and what had occurred here in New Jersey, it really is insignificant,” he said. “More than anything, I’m glad we were able to raise money for a really good and needed cause. One of things I tell my students is that little things become big things, that little good things become big good things, but little bad things become big bad things. I hope they view this as a moment where a little good thing can help big good thing- raising money to help people who need it. I’m proud that in my own silly little way I was a part of something that contributed to rebuilding New Jersey in the wake of the worst natural disaster to hit our state.”