Helping teachers help kids
By Mitchell Boatman 616-546-4209
Posted Aug 26, 2018 at 1:01 PM
FENWICK - Running a classroom can be a difficult - and expensive - task for teachers.
Luckily for early elementary school teachers in Ionia and Montcalm counties, United Way is here to help.
The "Sponsor a Classroom" program is nearing the end of its annual fund drive, and while a lot of money has been raised, more is still needed as the new school year begins.
The goal of the program is simple and crucial - to provide some additional funding for K-3 classroom teachers in area schools, so they can have the resources to provide the best possible educational experience for their students.
While some people may assume teachers get all the money they need from their schools to pay for necessary items, that's frequently not the case.
The initiative, which began Aug. 1 and runs through Aug. 31, has raised enough money to sponsor 157 of 262 targeted K-3 classrooms.
There are 68 classrooms left to sponsor in Ionia County, including several in the Ionia school district, Lakewood Elementary (Lake Odessa) in the Lakewood school district, and a large number in the Portland school district.
"A lot of the teachers are finding that they have to purchase other supplies and learning aids to help kids stay focused in class," said Terri Legg, executive director of United Way Montcalm-Ionia. "The goal of the program really is to allow the teachers to purchase the supplies that they need, completely unrestricted, that help them the most to be able to teach in their classroom."
One issue being addressed with the money is hunger. According to Legg, one in five kids in Ionia County do not get enough to eat over the course of an average day. A few extra dollars can allow a teacher to buy a few snacks or food items, to help address that critical problem.
"A lot of our kids are hungry," she said. "Initially we started this with 'How do we help address hunger and what do teachers need in their classrooms?' and it has really expanded.
"Anybody can sponsor a classroom, or a portion of a classroom. It's $100 per teacher. We will take any amount of money toward that."
For those who like to know where there money is going, sponsors can choose the school that will get their donation.
"That's the really cool part, they can pick (where to donate)," Legg said. "They can leave it open and allow us to pick a school, they can narrow it down by the county if they want it to just stay in the county, or they can pick a specific school building."
The Sponsor a Classroom program has expanded in its second year, but Legg hopes it isn't done growing just yet.
"Last year we were only able to do mainly just the public schools," she said. "This year we have public and the private, which is nice. Our ultimate goal is to expand it beyond (kindergarten through third grade)."
The program started at the early elementary level, to help get kids on the right track toward graduation.
"Kindergarten and third grade are the precursors to whether a kid graduates or not," Legg said. "You can statistically look at attendance rates for kindergarten and that helps to determine the success of graduation rates.
"It's critical that our kids are at reading level, that they're at school, and they they're not hungry so that they can be there, learn and focus."
To make a tax-deductible donation or learn more about the Sponsor a Classroom program, visit the organization's website - www.liveunitedm-i.org.