May 11, 2015
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While technology is vastly changing the way students learn in classrooms, with some schools equipping their students with iPads, many West County public school teachers struggle to equip their pupils with basic materials like books and quality paper.

Charis West, a Grant Elementary kindergarten teacher, said cost restraints prevented her from procuring a set of markers for her classroom and also forced her students to use cheap, flimsy newsprint for lessons requiring higher-quality chart paper.

Despite the bleak picture, this spring local teachers like West received a much-needed boost from the Chamberlin Family Foundation’s Gratitude Grants program, which provided $61,000 in grants ($250 per teacher) for the purchase of books, basic supplies and other academic needs.

Nearly all 56 public schools in West County benefited from the grants. Eleven-percent of grantees requested basic materials such as paper, pencils, calculators, notebooks, sharpeners and markers, the foundation said.

The bulk of grants went to Richmond-area schools, including seven to Ford Elementary School, six to Montalvin Manor Elementary, five to Lovonya DeJean Middle School, eight to Lincoln Elementary School, and seven to Richmond High School.

With her grant, West was not only able to purchase the markers and chart paper for her students but also books from the new Common Core State Standards recommended reading list.

Meanwhile, Joanne Friedman, a second-grade teacher at Wilson Elementary in Richmond, used her grant to equip her school library with nonfiction and guided-reading books for small group instruction. In the past, Friedman said she’s had to dig into her pockets to purchase books for her students. (photo below from Friedman’s classroom)

Nearly all West County schools get boost from Chamberlin Gratitude Grants program“There are challenges here in knowing what is needed, funding the purchases, and organizing the materials to be optimally used by more than one classroom of students,” Friedman said.

One in four grants from the Gratitude Grant program helped meet literacy needs and provide materials to prepare students for Common Core.

Susan Chamberlin, co-founder with her husband Steve of the Chamberlin Family Foundation, said teachers know best what materials they need to empower their students.

“These grants are a thank you and an acknowledgement of teachers understanding what it takes to move students forward academically,” Chamberlin said.

The grant program is not the first to place purchasing powers for school instruction in the hands of teachers. Last year, Chevron’s Fuel Your School program provided $1 million to teachers in Contra Costa and Alameda counties for educational tools.

The Chamberlin Family Foundation hopes to continue the Gratitude Grants program in the 2015-16 school year.

Other Richmond-area Gratitude Grant recipients include:

  • Adriane Ahnstedt, fourth-grade teacher at Cesar E. Chavez Elementary, to buy special labels for an accelerated reader library
  • Annacy Wilson, ninth-grade teacher Richmond High School, to fund scientific calculators and spiral notebooks
  • Ariana Hernandez, kindergarten teacher at Lincoln Elementary, to pay for materials that encourage artistic ability and self-expression.


About the Author

Mike Aldax is the editor of the Richmond Standard. He has 13 years of journalism experience, most recently as a reporter for the San Francisco Examiner. He previously held roles as reporter and editor at Bay City News, Napa Valley Register, Garden Island Newspaper in Kaua’i, and the Queens Courier in New York City.