Retired professor Dr. Darla Shaw gives gift of literacy to Zambian school
Western Connecticut State University Professor Emerita of Education Dr. Darla Shaw has had a collection of nearly 2,000 children’s books at an elementary school in Zambia named in her honor. The Dr. Darla Shaw Children’s Book Collection was donated by Shaw herself in spring 2018 to the education outreach group Impact Network. Shipping expenses for the books were helped by proceeds from the WCSU Social Work Club and Education Club.
Founded in 2009, Impact Network operates in over 40 tuition-free schools, reaching more than 6,000 students across Zambia. Impact Network’s curriculum is monitored by the Board of American Institutes for Research in Washington, D.C. Reshma Patel, executive director at Impact Network, said that Shaw’s donation will soon have a home in a “mobile library” that will travel around to different schools run by the organization.
“When I first learned of Dr. Shaw’s intentions to donate a wealth of children’s books to Impact Network schools, I was taken aback with her ambitious goal,” Patel said. “Fast-forwarding to now, I am taken aback by how meaningful the donations have been to teachers, students and communities.”
Once completed, the mobile library will allow students to take books out for a week at a time and “broaden the impact of these books to include their whole families,” Patel added.
“Ample community members can profit from the wonders of Dr. Shaw’s generosity,” Patel said.
Shaw said, “This (Impact Network) is such a wonderful project,” and added that the link between WCSU and the organization’s schools in Zambia is an “important connection.”
Patricia Ivry, professor emerita of Social Work and former interim dean of the School of Professional Studies, traveled to Impact Network’s Joel School in the Katete District of Zambia in 2017 with her husband. It was through Ivry that Shaw learned of the schools’ needs and decided to donate.
“Darla is an incredible person, a unique individual,” said Ivry. “Her impressive career as an educator has been distinguished by always putting her students first. She herself is a student of life, traveling extensively to experience world cultures. Thus, her donation of books to rural schools in Zambia is a perfect gift.”
Shaw served as the Language Arts Coordinator for the Ridgefield School System for 38 years, and acted as an educational literacy specialist for the WCSU Education and Educational Psychology department for 25 years. During her tenure, she helped develop organizations such as the Education Club, the Future Teacher’s Club, the Read Across America program, the Danbury History Comes Alive program, the Oral History program with the Senior Citizens in Danbury and the Educational Honor Society Program, the Danbury Cultural Alliance and the Danbury Historical Society, among others.
In addition to her career as an educator, Shaw has been involved with outreach and artistic projects. She has traveled to over 80 countries for humanitarian work speaking on literacy issues. She is also a musician, playing accordion in the Ridgefield Founder’s Hall Band, and steel drums in the Wilton Steel Drum Band.
“We are thrilled to have created a library for our schools to foster a love of reading within our communities, and Dr. Shaw’s donation is what started this,” Patel said.