The Desert Leaf July/August 2013 : Page 62

Heart of the Matter Tucson Values Teachers by Jan Henrikson Tucson Values Teachers works with volunteers from UA Future Teachers Club on Teacher Day at UA. W Giving is for everyone. With good planning and skillful guidance, we can help you make a lasting difference. Your Legacy Changes Lives. Inspiring Donors Now & Forever 520-770-0800 • cfsaz.org 62 DesertLeaf l July/August 2013 ant to honor your favorite teach-er? Forget the apple. Fill that World’s Best Teacher mug with a gift card to an office supply store. Offer a discount of your services. Support Tucson Values Teach-ers (TVT), a community-wide initia-tive acting on the understanding that, “Teachers are the most important fac-tor in a child’s education,” as Jacque-lyn Jackson, TVT’s founding executive director says. “The quality of a child’s education will never exceed the quality of the teacher from the classroom.” TVT’s mission is to attract and re-tain the best teachers, which requires ingenuity in difficult economic times. A 2010 McKinsey Report to the Gates Foundation showed that teacher effectiveness is the strongest contribu-tor to student performance. “ In any workforce, to keep the best workers, you need to reward them, re-spect them, and invest in them, ” ex-plains Jackson, a former lobbyist in Washington, D.C. Arizona’s $180 million-plus fund-ing cuts from our K-12 schools fuel the need for “big dollar amounts that no nonprofit can ever fill,” she says. She recalls listening in the audi-ence when Cal Baker, superintendent of the Vail School District, remarked at a Southern Arizona Leadership Coun-cil (SALC) meeting: “My job is surviv-ing everybody’s attempt to fix us and starve us into greatness.” TVT emerged in part from ques-tions posed by SALC: How does a region drive enough investment to ensure 100 percent of our kids enjoy a quality edu-cation? According to Jackson, strengthen-ing the economic partnership between business and education is vital. “ Over-all, ” she advises, “ we ’ ve got more than 120 business partners in all our differ-ent programs. ” TVT has partnered with the Univer-sity of Arizona College of Education to form MASTER-IP, a master’s program that matches K-12 teachers with paid internships in local businesses such as Raytheon, UA/Biosphere 2 and Sun-dt. Teachers bring their real world im-mersion in the fields of science, tech-nology, engineering, and math back to their classes. Tucson Supplies Teachers is an an-nual supply drive TVT hosts in partner-ship with Walgreens. The public drops off essentials, like crayons, notebooks and tissues, in collection boxes at Wal-greens all over Pima County, Sierra Vis-ta and Nogales for several designated weeks every summer. “That’s a way we really show value and help economically as much as we can,” says Jackson. Teachers, whose salaries begin, on average, at a little more than $30,000, often spend $500 out of pocket for their own school supplies each year — more if they teach younger kids. It ’ s not that they have plenty of money to spend, contends Jackson. “ They do it because they see the need. ” And what does the community see when we think of educators? What are the qualities we associate with teach-ers of today? Short hours, summers off? Highly educated, high-level profes-sionals? Jackson has found that while “ev-erybody seems to like their own teach-er, the level of respect for teachers is not what it used to be.” It is hoped that events like Teach-er Day at UA, which offers network-ing opportunities and professional Courtesy: Tucson Values Teachers

Heart Of The Matter

Jan Henrikson

Tucson Values Teachers

Want to honor your favorite teacher?
Forget the apple.

Fill that World’s Best Teacher mug with a gift card to an office supply store. Offer a discount of your services.

Support Tucson Values Teachers (TVT), a community-wide initiative acting on the understanding that, “Teachers are the most important factor in a child’s education,” as Jacquelyn Jackson, TVT’s founding executive director says. “The quality of a child’s education will never exceed the quality of the teacher from the classroom.”

TVT’s mission is to attract and retain the best teachers, which requires ingenuity in difficult economic times.

A 2010 McKinsey Report to the Gates Foundation showed that teacher effectiveness is the strongest contributor to student performance.

“In any workforce, to keep the best workers, you need to reward them, respect them, and invest in them,” explains Jackson, a former lobbyist in Washington, D.C.

Arizona’s $180 million-plus funding cuts from our K-12 schools fuel the need for “big dollar amounts that no nonprofit can ever fill,” she says.

She recalls listening in the audience when Cal Baker, superintendent of the Vail School District, remarked at a Southern Arizona Leadership Council (SALC) meeting: “My job is surviving everybody’s attempt to fix us and starve us into greatness.”

TVT emerged in part from questions posed by SALC: How does a region drive enough investment to ensure 100 percent of our kids enjoy a quality education?

According to Jackson, strengthening the economic partnership between business and education is vital. “Overall,” she advises, “we’ve got more than 120 business partners in all our different programs.”

TVT has partnered with the University of Arizona College of Education to form MASTER-IP, a master’s program that matches K-12 teachers with paid internships in local businesses such as Raytheon, UA/Biosphere 2 and Sundt. Teachers bring their real world immersion in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math back to their classes.

Tucson Supplies Teachers is an annual supply drive TVT hosts in partnership with Walgreens. The public drops off essentials, like crayons, notebooks and tissues, in collection boxes at Walgreens all over Pima County, Sierra Vista and Nogales for several designated weeks every summer.

“That’s a way we really show value and help economically as much as we can,” says Jackson.

Teachers, whose salaries begin, on average, at a little more than $30,000, often spend $500 out of pocket for their own school supplies each year—more if they teach younger kids. It’s not that they have plenty of money to spend, contends Jackson. “They do it because they see the need.”

And what does the community see when we think of educators? What are the qualities we associate with teachers of today? Short hours, summers off? Highly educated, high-level professionals?

Jackson has found that while “everybody seems to like their own teacher, the level of respect for teachers is not what it used to be.”

It is hoped that events like Teacher Day at UA, which offers networking opportunities and professional development programs for free, is changing that.

The same goes for Teachers’ Voices, a radio show on Arizona Public Media, based on NPR’s Story Corps. Teachers’ Voices gives listeners a chance to hear educators, administrators and students discuss the satisfying and challenging experiences they face.

For those earnest about finding powerful ways to value teachers, TVT suggests electing legislators that support a healthy educational system.

In the meantime, consider nominating your favorite educator for a TVT Teacher Excellence Award. Winners are selected monthly by TVT’s board of directors. In addition to receiving a $100 gift card from Office Max, winners’ profiles are featured on TVT’s website (tucsonvaluesteachers.org).

Jackson’s wishes for the future of TVT? “That we go out of business. That teachers are so well-paid and so wellrespected that there is no need for an organization like this.”

To contact TVT, check out its website or call 520-327-7619

Blessings in a Backpack

Dr. Oz’s TV show on child hunger in America moved Nina Straw to tears. Did chronically hungry kids attend Bloom Elementary, a school so close to her house she could hear its bell ring every morning?

She had to find out. Not tomorrow, not next week. Today. She walked over to Bloom and asked the staff if her help was needed.

The school was engaged in a sock and underwear collection drive for students, which deepened Straw’s sense of urgency. “I was shocked. I live in an average neighborhood. I didn’t think we would have those kinds of needs at our school.”

She and a neighbor quickly raised enough money to feed four families for Christmas. But, she told herself, hunger doesn’t end with the holidays.

While searching for solutions online, she discovered Blessings in a Backpack. It’s a national nonprofit that feeds elementary-school kids who qualify for federally funded free and reduced-price meals and are at risk of having little or no food over the weekends.

She approached Bloom Elementary again. It turned out that 26 percent, or between 68 and 73 of their students, were eligible to receive backpacks filled with two breakfasts, two lunches and a snack every Friday night. That nourishment could potentially fill their stomachs, increase their school attendance, improve reading skills and promote positive behavior.

“I didn’t know how to fundraise,” says Straw about making the three-year commitment to run Blessings at Bloom. “So I just started walking the school district.”

She knocked on roughly 250 doors. Some people gave money, others “yelled at me about what’s wrong with the parents, the government, the economy.” I responded, “I don’t care about the issues. I just care about hungry kids. They can’t feed themselves.”

With the help of her friend Robin Brennan, Straw got the word out. Blessings eventually teamed up with Albertsons Market on 22nd and Wilmot, where Straw purchases, at cost, food for Blessings.

Last May, Albertsons donated enough food to feed the 500 people expected to attend Tucson Harley-Davidson’s 5th Anniversary Party. Harley- Davidson gave all proceeds from its Anniversary Charity Ride to Blessings.

Albertsons also donates a penny for every dollar you spend at any of its locations when you swipe a Blessings Community Card (available from Straw). “We give them out to whoever wants them,” she says about the cards. “Our shoppers have raised $8,000.”

Of all money received by Blessings, 100 percent goes toward food, which is stored at Bloom; $80 worth of those provisions feeds one child for an entire school year.

Every Thursday, volunteers Daniel Salazar, Josie Mendoza and Mary Bacon pack the backpacks and deliver them to the appropriate classrooms. Typically, kids take home two instant oatmeal packages, two Juicy Juices, ramen, a can of meat ravioli, chocolate and vanilla pudding and popcorn.

What kind of feedback has Straw received? A second-grade teacher told Straw that the “Backpack Kids” all sit together on the bus and can't stop talking.

One child doesn’t like every food item in the backpack. Her family pays it forward by taking the less-than-favored food to another family in need. The popcorn inspired yet another family to start Movie Night.

Resulting from the closure of Schumaker Elementary, Bloom will get 150 new students this upcoming school year. Schumaker is a Title 1 school, so all students might be eligible for Blessings in a Backpack.

“The good news is we got our first grant,” says Straw of the $5,440 received from The West, a volunteer-run needlepoint and gift shop that donates all profits to worthy organizations.

In terms of donating, Straw used to send money to Africa. “Now I just spend my money in my neighborhood. My feeling is that if every neighborhood could take on their school, we could feed a lot of hungry kids.”

For more information, visit Facebook at Blessings in a Backpack-Bloom Elementary or contact program coordinator Nina Straw, (520) 909-8535.

Donations can sent by mail to Blessings in a Backpack, 1411 N. Dennis Ave., Tucson AZ 85715 or online at blessingsinabackpack.org. To keep the money local, write “Bloom-Tucson” on your check or click on “Bloom-Tucson” when donating online.

Jan Henrikson is a local freelance writer. Comments for publication should be addressed to letters@desertleaf.com.

Read the full article at http://trendmag2.trendoffset.com/article/Heart+Of+The+Matter/1433765/164170/article.html.

Community Foundation Of Southern Arizona

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