Unless you were living under a rock throughout most of the '90s, you are fully aware that Tia Mowry-Hardrict is a queen among television stars who rose to fame starring alongside her twin sister in the hit show Sister, Sister. Now, as a working mom, lifestyle guru with her own YouTube channel, and still absolutely killing it on screen in her new Netflix show Family Reunion, Mowry is using her star status to raise awareness for a cause near and dear to her heart with the WE Teachers initiative.
"I truly understand the role and the impact that teachers have when it comes to shaping our children. I have two, one’s not in school yet, but my gosh it's coming right around the corner," Mowry, mom to 15-month-old Cairo and 8-year-old Cree, shares with me in a phone interview. "I understand that they have a huge impact on our children, and not only our children, but myself. So, I’m really excited to be partnering up with Walgreens and I’m excited that they’re stepping out to support teachers all across America with this program."
The no-cost program helps to support teachers nationwide through the help of partnership with Walgreens by providing free educational resources that address their students' social needs, as well as help provide funding for supplies that teachers often pay out of their own pocket for.
"A lot of [teachers] on average spend $500 of their own money to stock a classroom, just to help these students succeed," Mowry says. Teachers can apply for a WE Teachers award themselves, or be nominated by a supporter, on the WE Teachers website to be entered to receive a $500 Walgreens gift card to use for classroom supplies. WE Teachers will award $250,000 ("Which is a quarter of a million dollars" Mowry gushes with emphasis) in gift cards to deserving teachers this school year.
"One of the main things where it really becomes personal to me, and one of the things I absolutely love about the program, is they’re also providing free online classes for teachers to take so that they can learn more or get a better understanding about the social issues that can arise or can happen within a classroom," Mowry says. She also explains how her own son was impacted by bullying in elementary school.
"I was really shocked at how this could happen. You know, you always think of this on movies and television that there’s a lot of attention when you’re a teenager, right, or even when you’re in your late teens, so I was pretty shocked that I would have to be dealing with something such as bullying at such a young age for my son," Mowry tells me. "So, to know that there's a program such as this that will help teachers out there learn more about how to deal with these issues at school, it gave me some hope."
Mowry says that throughout her own years in school, two teachers significantly impacted her, which contributes to her desire to give back to teachers through the WE Teachers initiative. Moving around a lot as a child as an "Army brat," she says that she was often shy and hesitant to ask questions, but her 3rd grade teacher, Mrs. Smallwood, helped her come out of her shell. "She taught me to have self confidence," Mowry says. "She also taught me to use my imagination. She had mentioned to me that I was really great at writing and telling stories, so she really taught me how to be confident and expand my imagination."
In college, Mowry explains that her professor at Pepperdine University, Mr. Banks, helped her during a stressful time in her life where she was attending classes, starring on Sister, Sister, and struggling with taking diet pills. "What was so awesome was to have this support where this teacher utilized this class as if it was like a therapy session. So, here he taught me how to let go of things that I felt that I was struggling with," she tells me. "He taught me about writing things down on a piece of paper that you wanted to let go and you just throw it in the fire and never see it again, or go back to it again, and that’s exactly what I did."
Because of the teachers who impacted her life, Mowry says she emphasizes teacher appreciation with her family now that her son is in school, noting that in addition to monetary donations and teacher appreciation gifts several times a year, volunteering time is another way she and her husband both give back at their son's school. "I think it’s important to build some sort of community with the family and get to know your teachers — and let the teachers get to know you — and let them know how important school is to you and how important teachers are to you because they’re creating this community and this family."
You would think that as the host of her own YouTube lifestyle show, Tia Mowry’s QuickFix, Mowry would have the back-to-school routine down pat by now, and she admittedly does have a pretty streamlined approach, but this working mom is no different than the rest of us when it comes to feeling the chaos that surrounds the back-to-school season. "One thing that we definitely do is we like to get ahead in any kind of way. Because once the school season starts, it's fast paced. So what we do is I like to kind of get everything prepared before he goes to school," Mowry says. "We’ll head down to Walgreens and get all of the back-to-school supplies that he needs so that he’s prepared within the classroom. Another thing that I do is a lot of back-to-school clothes shopping. So, I’ll get everything that he needs — staple things like jeans, jacket, shirts — and then I organize everything."
She also shares that one of her biggest back-to-school hacks is actually something that her mom used to do for her and her siblings growing up. "One of the things that I do, especially the first week of school, is I’ll have all of his shirts kind of lined up. My mom did that for us when we were kids and I thought that she was crazy," she says with a laugh. "She would have all of the clothes in the closet lined up for us to pick out and wear to school. Now I see it’s great to do this because in the mornings it’s so hectic and everything goes so fast, so if you have your shirt, you have your jeans, you have your clothes kind of all ready gathered together, you don’t have to think about, 'Oh my gosh what is he gonna wear?' So that’s what I do, and then the night before, I’ll take out his socks, his underwear, and his t-shirt, so everything is laid out and prepared for him."
As a mom, Mowry says she is big on letting her kids take the lead and says that she tends to "go with the flow," but also notes that preparation and schedules are key to helping her kids succeed. "I am very much into schedules because I just think that kids need structure for them to feel safe and not be anxious and have anxiety, so I like to tap into them emotionally," she says. "Their emotional state of being and mental health is really, really, really important to me."
The focus on mental health preparedness in the classroom is part of why the WE Teachers initiative speaks so deeply to Mowry, who says she will be nominating her own son's teacher for a WE Teachers Award. "The WE Teachers Award is so amazing because teachers, students, and parents can nominate a teacher that they feel made an impact on their lives," she says. "I think what’s so great about this program is it’s allowing people to show their appreciation. It’s allowing people to let teachers know how important they are."
To nominate a teacher in your life for a WE Teachers Award and a chance to win one a $500 Walgreens gift card, visit the WE Teachers website and fill out their online application.