Colorado teachers can apply for up to $800 in grants to purchase materials for their classrooms through a new state initiative announced Thursday.
The $11 million in federal COVID relief funds is aimed at helping teachers purchase materials to address needs and learning deficits that came out of the COVID pandemic, according to Commissioner of Education Susana Córdova.
"We wanted to invest in our teachers directly, knowing they have the insight and the experience to choose classroom resources that will be most helpful to their students," said Córdova, who made the announcement before a group of third-graders at Westview Elementary in the Adams 12 Five Star School District north of Denver.
“We still are nowhere close to where we need to be in terms of being able to ensure that every classroom has everything that it needs, particularly given the more diverse needs we are seeing in our student population and particularly given the impact of the pandemic,” she said.
Starting today, preschool through 12th grade public school teachers can apply through the DonorsChoose Colorado site and submit a project.
If the project qualifies, it will usually be funded within two to five days. The organization packages and sends the resources to schools. That can be supplies, technology, instructional material, puzzles and games to help with reading materials, hands-on manipulatives for kids.
“Any of the kinds of things that you think will help your students learn and recover from the disruptions of the pandemic,” said Córdova.
The initiative will be open to all teachers on a first come, first served basis until the funding runs out. Cordova said she knows the funding won’t last long; some states have gone through their funds in weeks. The money would serve 12,000 Colorado teachers if each used the maximum $800.
Teachers already spend hundreds of their own dollars to purchase everything from books to snacks for hungry children.
Westview Elementary third grade teacher Audrey Parker estimates that she spends about $100 a month on snacks for kids if they don’t have them.
“If they’re tired and lagging it’s really hard for them to stay focused,” she said. Parker also purchased cubbies for her students when she switched grades.
With the new grant initiative, she’d like to purchase plastic fraction circles. Typically, her class spends two days cutting out imperfect fraction circles themselves. The second thing she’d like is flexible seating.
“Our students learn differently and sometimes their bodies just need to wiggle while their brains are working and that gets them more focused.”
Second grade teacher Jennifer Lage said today’s children need to have more hands-on, tactile experiences. Her class did an animal habitat project last year but there were barely enough supplies for everyone. She said experiential, hands-on learning materials can cost individual teachers hundreds of dollars a year.
“We find that if kids are engaged in their learning, we are definitely going to have less issues with behavior and we’re also going to have way more learning and a lot more fun.”
She’d also like to purchase some more reading materials at different levels and in different languages for English language learners with the DonorsChoose grant.
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