A Riverside High School math teacher used a popular teacher fundraising website called Donors Choose to raise enough money from local and international donors to buy 30 new graphing calculators for her students.
Anna Brougher teaches algebra and geometry to freshman and sophomore students. Other classrooms in the school have graphing calculators paid for by grants, and Brougher said she wanted her students to have the opportunity to use them as well.
“It’s kind of been a dream of mine,” she said. “I wanted to teach all these skills that can make math more efficient.”
Online tests allow the use of graphing calculators but many students, who can’t afford the pricey calculators, don’t know how to use them, Brougher said. Knowing how to use one is a valuable skill and can make a difference in student learning.
“It doesn’t matter as much that they can’t do fractions in their head, they can’t do division in their head,” she said.
Riverside School District Superintendent Ken Russell said the normal process for a teacher to request money for something like graphing calculators is slow.
“Normally we would do this through a curriculum adoption process,” Russell said.
Brougher said she knew the Riverside School District didn’t have a lot of extra money to pay for the calculators, so she wanted to explore other funding options.
“I’ve never been one to see how much money I can get out of the district,” she said. “I know they don’t have a ton of money.”
Donors Choose is a website created by a Bronx, New York, history teacher in 2000 who knew he and other teachers were spending their own money on books, art supplies and other materials for their classrooms. He wanted a website where teachers could post funding requests that could be supported by anyone.
Brougher said she worked for six weeks to find the calculators and create a proposal that had to be approved before it could be posted on the website. She was asking for $4,800. The money was raised in only six days.
“I figured I would be working on this project for several months,” she said. “I didn’t end up needing to.”
The Ram Nation Boosters raised more than $1,400 from local donors, including local businesses. But the funding request also caught the eye of the Stavros Nirachos Foundation, which is headquartered in Greece. The foundation gave more than $1,700 in matching money. Companies from Nevada and Hawaii also pitched in funding.
Russell said he’s pleased that Brougher was able to raise the money she needed.
“She wanted to go for it,” he said. “Some teachers just get really creative. I think what Anna did was pretty novel.”
But he was surprised at the speed at which the money was raised and how much attention it attracted.
“Anytime Riverside, a rural school district in north Spokane, gets international attention, it’s a surprise,” he said. “It’s pretty amazing. It’s kind of neat to see local and international resources combine to fund a project.”
Though this funding effort was hugely successful, Russell said he doesn’t expect it to be used a lot in the district.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that common,” he said. “Most of the materials and supplies come from district funding.”
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