Oklahoma City, OK – More than 7,500 Oklahoma classroom teachers in 1,411 schools at 462 districts have received shipments of hand-picked learning tools and school supplies through an initiative from State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister and the Oklahoma State Department of Education (OSDE).
Using federal pandemic relief funds, OSDE partnered with the national nonprofit DonorsChoose to award public school teachers with grants up to $800 each. Response to the Classroom Learning and School Supplies (CLASS) grants surpassed expectations when the project opened on Feb. 4. The $6 million in grant funds were depleted in 3 days, setting a national record for DonorsChoose.
“Oklahoma teachers submitted almost 8,000 DonorsChoose projects in just the first day. This is an uptake rate we’ve never seen before in the history of DonorsChoose. It means that nearly one in five teachers in Oklahoma prioritized participating in this program in the hours after it opened,” said Charles Best, who founded DonorsChoose in 2000.
Hofmeister directed the federal funding to the CLASS initiative after a survey of teachers revealed the urgent need for new classroom tools to address learning gaps created by the pandemic.
“Over the past year, we’ve strategically placed federal relief funding in critical education areas where the need is high,” Hofmeister said. “We wanted to let teachers decide where additional funding could do the most good. Now thousands of teachers have had their wish lists fulfilled with supplies for customized learning projects that have a direct and meaningful impact on students.”
Additional funding was provided by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Philanthropies and the Mona and Mark Whitmire Family Foundation to fully fund or complete projects across the state. Both organizations are based in Tulsa.
Stefanie Soucek, first-grade teacher at Morrow Elementary School in Owasso Public Schools, requested a variety of learning activities for her classroom, including magnetic letter tiles, addition games and sound-it-out puzzles. Soucek received the supplies on Feb. 11.
“I am so thankful to the state of Oklahoma for using relief funds to bless Oklahoma classrooms. My first-graders are going to be so excited to receive these amazing math and reading centers. Their faces will light up each time we use them,” Soucek said.
Amanda Haney, a pre-K teacher at Riverwood Elementary School in Mustang Public Schools, received approval for her funding project on Feb. 6.
“My goal is to increase my students’ ability to grasp some of the earliest learning concepts such as shapes, colors, patterning and uppercase-letter knowledge. This light table and wide array of translucent manipulatives will offer a hands-on opportunity for my young learners to explore, create and master the Oklahoma Academic Standards,” Haney said.
Amanda Bowser, an Oklahoma Teacher of the Year finalist in 2016, requested tools that will allow her fifth-graders to learn through computer-based learning programs.
“In our classroom, as in every classroom, students are on different levels in their learning, ready for instruction at their pace. Our interactive, computer-based programs meet students’ learning needs at their just-right level,” said Bowser, who teaches at Rosewood Elementary in Broken Arrow Public Schools. “A great big thank you to OSDE for this huge investment in the students of Oklahoma. They need it. They deserve it. Their education is important and has the potential to make a lasting impact on our communities and our state. How do we impact student learning? By supporting teachers in the classroom one project at a time! I can’t thank you enough!”
CLASS grants were approved by the teacher’s site principal before being vetted through the DonorsChoose process and were awarded on a first-come, first-served basis.
First-grade students Caroline Roberts, Crosby Ross and Kellan Hodges unpack new learning activities bought with a CLASS Grant awarded to teacher Stefanie Soucek at
Morrow Elementary School, Owasso Public Schools. The children said it felt like Christmas.
First-grade student Kellan Hodges works on learning positional words (on, beside, below, etc.) by reading directions on a card and placing the objects according to the directions. The new learning activities were bought with a CLASS Grant awarded to teacher Stefanie Soucek at Morrow Elementary School, Owasso Public Schools.
Pre-K students use their new light desk bought with a CLASS Grant awarded to teacher Amanda Haney at Riverwood Elementary School, Mustang Public Schools. The students use the translucent letters to learn early reading skills. Sitting criss-cross in the front: Jentry Fincher and Mia Huynh. On their knees around the table left to right: Eric Ballin Martinez, Solara Hakala, Kasen Moss, Madison Scott, Theodore Glendenning, John Gober. Standing left to right: Andrew Matejcic, Emilio AguilarMejia, Mrs. Amanda Haney, Leo Duke, Parker Rowe, Teague Smith.
Fifth-grade student Keon Beard wears new headphones bought with a CLASS Grant awarded to teacher Amanda Bowser at Rosewood Elementary, Broken Arrow Public Schools.
Fifth-grade students Lillie Colbert and Kennedy Fletcher wear new headphones bought with a CLASS Grant awarded to teacher Amanda Bowser at Rosewood Elementary, Broken Arrow Public Schools.