Four Newton School teachers get funding help for classroom materials

  • Newton School rising third-grader Alyson Harris “thinks” about how much she likes the new bulletin boards with erasable paper in Jami Witherell’s classroom. Witherell received funding for the bulletin boards through SONIC Drive-In’s Limeades for Learning initiative. Contributed photo/Jami Witherell

  • Newton School rising third-grader Kassidie Stoltz “says” how much she likes the new bulletin boards with erasable paper in Jami Witherell’s classroom. Witherell received funding for the bulletin boards through SONIC Drive-In’s Limeades for Learning initiative. Contributed photo/Jami Witherell

Staff Report
Published: 7/9/2019 5:25:06 PM

GREENFIELD — Second-grade teacher Jami Witherell couldn’t use nails on the walls of her modular classroom at Newton School. She wanted a bulletin board and dry-erase board, which she would hang with industrial-strength Velcro.

Looking to ensure her students “have everything they need to do their best learning,” Witherell received help from an unlikely source: SONIC Drive-In.

As part of its Limeades for Learning initiative, SONIC recently partnered with the nonprofit crowdfunding website DonorsChoose.org to offer $1.2 million in matching donations to teacher projects.

Thanks to the fundraising initiative, Witherell was able to purchase her dry-erase boards and a bulletin board with erasable paper. She was one of four teachers at Newton School to receive a total of $1,229 in funding.

“With the constraints of the budget as they are, we are often supplied with the essentials, which leaves little for thinking outside of the box,” Witherell said. “Being able to get the Velcro was the only way to hang materials, and getting those materials donated, rather than paying for them out of my own pocket, left my resources for things like continuing my own professional development and end-of-year bags to support summer learning for my second-graders.”

The other recipients are: kindergarten teacher Jeanne Encarnacao, who received a variety of colored construction paper; Jennifer LaGoy, who received novels to use during group reading lessons in her third-grade classroom; and fourth-grade teacher Rachel Cummings, who received Chromebooks.

The four instructors are among 3,937 funding recipients across the country.

“SONIC fans who love teachers responded incredibly during Teacher Appreciation Month,” said Christi Woodworth, vice president of public relations for SONIC. “Each year, teachers spend hundreds of their own dollars to support their students, and with Limeades for Learning, SONIC and our fans made that burden a bit lighter. We celebrate and thank teachers for the incredible work they do to bring learning to life in creative and fun ways for their students.”

According to a SONIC press release, the fast food restaurant company provides essential funds needed for learning materials and innovative techniques for teachers to inspire creativity and learning through Limeades for Learning, the brand’s national award-winning cause marketing campaign. Since 2009, SONIC has donated $13.1 million, supported 33,177 classrooms, and provided necessary learning materials and teaching resources requested by teachers to impact 995,310 students in partnership with DonorsChoose.org.

Though both Witherell and LaGoy said this year was the first time they had heard of Limeades for Learning, Witherell noted that Newton School teachers have raised more than $75,000 for projects using DonorsChoose.org in the past few years.

“(That funding can be seen) in the form of benches, tables, books, technology, STEM materials, a little lending library on the playground, as well as bringing our favorite yoga instructor over from England for a day of yoga,” Witherell said. “The platform itself has allowed teachers to dream beyond the four walls of their classrooms and asks us to think without limits — which, in and of itself, is a profound gift to educators and students alike.”

Though Witherell has taught her last class at Newton School, having recently accepted a position in West Springfield, she said “I like to think a little piece of me stays behind” through the projects she was able to fund using DonorsChoose.org.

In LaGoy’s classroom, each unit of instruction (four or five per year) requires multiple copies of whole-class reading novels, novels for small-group instruction and independent reading books. That adds up to more than 60 novels, LaGoy said.

“This is quite costly,” she explained. However, the payoff is great, with students showing above-average growth on district and state assessments through such a teaching model, LaGoy explained.

“SONIC’s Limeades for Learning match helped fund two complete sets of classroom novels for me to use next year with my students. Over the past four years, I have slowly been working to gather resources for this program on my own and am incredibly grateful for the support I received from SONIC,” she said. “Their incredibly generous donation enabled me to complete the third-grade whole-group curriculum.”

While Teacher Appreciation Month is celebrated in May, SONIC supports teachers year-round, according to the press release. Visit LimeadesforLearning.com for updates on contributions, future donation matches, and how to get involved and explore public school teacher projects in the Greenfield community in need of support. Teachers can submit projects through DonorsChoose.org for a chance to receive funding.




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