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Community can help teachers enhance learning experiences


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Harris Special Education student Jillian Morgan folds laundry along with the rest of her class in the school's makeshift apartment. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
Harris Special Education student Jillian Morgan folds laundry along with the rest of her class in the school's makeshift apartment. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

Wash and dry: Harris Elementary School special education teacher Rebecca Cattell watches student DeWayne Perron load the dryer in the school's classroom 'apartment.' The setting helps students with special needs adapt to everyday living.  (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
Wash and dry: Harris Elementary School special education teacher Rebecca Cattell watches student DeWayne Perron load the dryer in the school's classroom 'apartment.' The setting helps students with special needs adapt to everyday living. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)

Helping teachers: Harris first-grade teacher Brenda Bryant makes a point in her class. Bryant has requested $850 for $10 tickets for 85 first graders to attend a play in Indianapolis. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)
Helping teachers: Harris first-grade teacher Brenda Bryant makes a point in her class. Bryant has requested $850 for $10 tickets for 85 first graders to attend a play in Indianapolis. (Tom Russo/Daily Reporter)


GREENFIELD — It’s hard to imagine being enthused about doing a load of laundry.

But 6-year-old DeWayne Perron is all smiles as he lifts towels and blankets from the dryer in the Life Skills Apartment at Greenfield Intermediate School and places them into a basket.

The apartment, shared by special education classes at the conjoined intermediate school and Harris Elementary School, provides students with the opportunity to learn practical household skills such as doing laundry and preparing meals.

The meal-making, however, has been somewhat on hold for the past few years. Though the apartment is equipped with a stove, it takes 45 minutes to boil water, and the oven is off by 100 degrees. As for the dining room table, it doesn’t have enough chairs for everyone, and several of the chairs have wheels, which can cause a distraction and be unsafe for children with physical disabilities.

With that in mind, it didn’t take special education teacher Rebecca Cattell long to decide what to put on her wish list for the Greenfield Central School Foundation’s new Wish Upon a Star program.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW LIST

One stove, one dining room table, please.

The foundation recently asked teachers throughout the district to write down two wishes that would aid them in doing their jobs. Those wishes will then be made available to donors who want to make a contribution to the school system.

“This has taken on a life of its own, and we are so excited,” foundation executive director Myra Bleill said. “Our goal through being a foundation is to be able to connect the community to the classroom. I just feel like that our educators, they just do so much, and this is so empowering of them … even to be able to wish.”

Cattell, who has been teaching special education at Harris for 10 years, hopes her request stands out.

“It’s great we have this space,” she said of the apartment used for the life skills class. “We just need it updated.”

The wishes range from pencils to iPads, all geared toward enhancing the learning experience for students.

Some wishes, like Cattell’s, are for tangible items that will remain in the classroom for years to come. Others, like Harris first-grade teacher Brenda Bryant’s, lean more toward the experiential.

Bryant hopes a donor will fund 85 $10 tickets for the school’s first-graders to go see a play in Indianapolis.

The list of 99 wishes was submitted by 52 teachers and totals more than $36,000.

But donors will find there is an item on the list for most any budget, said Kim Kile, a member of the foundation’s board of directors. The largest is more than $5,000 to support a field trip to Indianapolis. The smallest dollar amount requested is $5 for card stock.

“It may not even need to be a monetary donation,” Kile said.

The kickoff for the program is Saturday at the foundation’s second annual Red Letter Gala, for which Kile is a committee member.

The gala brings together supporters of G-C schools for a night of dinner and entertainment, including a silent auction. Attendees will also be invited to browse the Wish Upon a Star tree, which will be decorated with each teacher’s needs on a star ornament. (Registration for the gala has closed.)

Kile said she expects some alumni donors will choose to fill needs based on their own experiences in the Greenfield-Central school system.

“We have a wish from at least one teacher in every building, so if a family wanted to target a particular school because that has a great memory for them or a teacher, ... they can look at it through that,” she said.

Bleill said many of the items represent things teachers are currently paying for out of pocket.

“They want to inspire their children, and they want to change their lives, and if they think this set of leveled readers are going to boost these children up, they’re going to get them themselves,” she said. “In this economy, I don’t think we’re keeping up with the teachers.”

While the program will be highlighted at the gala this weekend, Bleill said she hopes to see wishes submitted throughout the year so the foundation can educate the community about the needs of the school system.

“I think they’re the best eyes to see what the classroom needs,” she said. “We can make wishes come true if we’re aware of them. Bottom line is our educators really, really care.”

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