E-mail campaign stocks classrooms with supplies

Donations: Paper, pencils, crayons and other items are given to city schools so that teachers don't have to spend their own money on supplies.

February 02, 2005|By Laura Loh | Laura Loh,SUN STAFF

Hundreds of city schoolteachers are slightly richer -- though not in the traditional sense -- as a result of an e-mail campaign that raises money to buy classroom supplies.

Laden with plastic bags heavy with reams of paper, pencils, crayons, scissors and other items, city workers visited 20 randomly chosen schools last week to brighten the days of more than 450 teachers.

"It was a good gesture," said Chris Lowder, who teaches art at Dr. Carter G. Woodson Elementary/Middle School.

The Cherry Hill school was visited by local dignitaries Jan. 25, and dozens of teachers were summoned onto the auditorium stage to receive their bags of supplies, to the resounding cheers of their pupils.

`A pat on the back'

"I know how limited [teacher] salaries are, and how tough the conditions are," said Pat Bernstein, the campaign's organizer and head of a local nonprofit group that teaches students about the stock market. "It's such a nice way to give them a pat on the back."

Bernstein said she came up with the idea of raising money for classroom supplies after listening to a speech given by a Teacher of the Year, who said she and her colleagues spend an average of $500 to $1,000 of their own money each year to buy school supplies.

Bernstein decided to set up a teacher appreciation fund and e-mail a group of friends to inform them of this opportunity to help, asking them to forward the e-mail in chain-letter fashion to people they knew.

Last school year, the effort raised $25,000 through about 60 donors. This fall, Mayor Martin O'Malley's office helped Bernstein spread the campaign's reach, bringing in big donors including M&T Bank, the Baltimore Orioles Foundation and Office Depot. It raised more than $40,000.

Bernstein said the campaign's use of e-mail means that there are no administrative costs, and all of the money raised goes into classrooms.

Lowder, who makes regular trips to an art store in Towson to buy supplies for his pupils' projects, said he has already made use of the colored pencils, paper and rulers he found in his bag. He said he doesn't mind spending his own money to supplement what the school provides.

Kimberly Kiah-Myers, a first-grade teacher at the school, said she did not need some of the supplies she received. She was given five hole-punchers, for example, and a stash of sticky notes that she plans to donate to the main office.

`We do work hard'

Kiah-Myers said she spent about $300 at the start of the school year to decorate her classroom and buy each of her 25 pupils a set of pencils, crayons and folders. What would have been most helpful, halfway through the school year, she said, would have been a gift certificate for a supply store so she could pick out specific items she needed.

But she appreciated the attention and said her pupils were happy to see her honored onstage. "It was nice that they thought about us," she said. "We do work hard, and we do spend a lot of money."

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