Teachers hunt for funds, donations
Turning to the Internet to find charitable people. Making and selling meals to raise funds. Or baking cookies or cake.
Because of budget cuts, many teachers at Rocky Mountain Elementary School have found others ways to raise funds for special projects or for specific needs within their classrooms.
Two years ago, School District 51 gave each classroom $200 for supplies, but that money was cut, said Jeff Kirtland, District 51 spokesman.
This year, each classroom at Rocky Mountain Elementary received $50 for expenses through the Parent Teacher Organization at the school. Also, teachers are allowed to deduct a small amount of their personal expenditures on income tax returns.
“It helps, but we spend so much of our own money that as a teacher you have to be creative,” said Stacy Bush, a teacher at the school.
According to the district, the school is among those with the most students on the free- and reduced-lunch program.
“We don’t have any classroom funds available, and our school supply lists are getting longer every year,” fourth-grade teacher Erin McIntyre said. “We can’t ask parents to give more, because they simply don’t have more.”
Many of McIntyre’s students struggle with reading. She has found that students who could listen to a story as well as follow words in the book were more likely to continue to try to read on their own.
McIntyre discovered, with excitement, that volumes of popular children’s novels for listening are available for free download at the Mesa County Library. The problem, though, was finding enough MP3 players for her students to use during assigned reading time.
She looked for help at DonorsChoose.org, a website dedicated to matching classroom needs with givers willing to fulfill them.
“I think if people just knew what we needed, they’d be more likely to help,” McIntyre said.
She wrote a proposal for the site, asking for five MP3 players before the school year began in August. Within a couple of months, McIntyre’s classroom received the players and started using them to read. She had not expected anyone to fulfill the request so quickly.
The players were donated by a Whitewater couple, Ken and Bonnie Kosanke, whose comment on the site said, “I donated because I want to support kids in Colorado.”
“It has made reading so much more accessible, and they are starting to improve their fluency already,” McIntyre said.
Lisa McCall, a first-grade teacher at the school, swears by DonorsChoose.org as a way to help make ends meet in her classroom.
She pointed to books, pillows, pencil sharpeners, CD players and a book cart in her room. All were provided through DonorsChoose.org.
The site requires teachers to follow a few guidelines.
“You have to be committed and follow through,” McCall said.
No money changes hands between the donors and the teachers. The supplies are purchased by the site’s buyers and delivered to the classroom. Then, the teachers are required to make their students write thank-you letters to the person who donated the items.
The teachers are held accountable through a rating system.
“You don’t want to let your rating go down, or people won’t help you anymore,” McCall said.
Soup for bucks
Other teachers have opted for a more traditional route to raise funds.
For the past two years, teacher Heather Baskin has sold bowls of soup to her hungry colleagues in exchange for a few bucks.
From January through March, she and her family tirelessly make soup every Tuesday night for lunch Wednesday. The pot is so big, Baskin has to let it cool overnight in the snow because it won’t fit inside her refrigerator.
“I liked her taco soup the best,” McIntyre said of last year’s lunchtime feasts, adding the teachers are looking forward to Baskin’s soup again this year.
Baskin has raised $200 to $300 dollars each year.
One year, she used the money to purchase two Global Positioning System devices, which her students used to search for specific coordinates on the school’s practice field, thus learning about longitude and latitude. Last year, she used the soup money to help sponsor girls who wanted to participate in the Girls on the Run program.
“I love to cook, and teachers love to eat,” Baskin said with a laugh. “This is just my way of brainstorming some ideas to help the kids.”
If all else fails, there’s always the old-fashioned bake sale.
Bush used that tactic last year to fund an ABC rug for her classroom. She baked a variety of goodies such as cookies or pistachio bread, which could be purchased for 50 cents in the teacher’s break room.
“It was a really quick way to raise money, and in the end someone left me an anonymous donation. So, within just a few months, I got the carpet,” Bush said.
Now, each of her students has a letter to sit on, which helps her kids get settled into an active listening position quicker, allowing Bush more time to teach.
“Traditionally, this is the way teachers have always done it,” Kirtland said, adding that the district was in the process of establishing a foundation that may help funding in classrooms.
“As teachers, we’ve always had to get creative,” McIntyre said.