The Amphi Foundation recently awarded $20,800 to local teachers to purchase classroom supplies for the 2019-20 school year. The money was distributed to 43 teachers in 16 of Amphitheater Public School District’s 21 schools.
According to Amphi Foundation Executive Director Leah Noreng, teachers were asked to submit an outline for how they would spend the money if it were awarded to them
“The board looked for innovation, sustainability and how many students the funds would impact,” she said.
She added that despite the Amphi Foundation’s funding, all departments and schools in the district still struggle.
“We will never be able to raise enough money to even begin to close the gap that has been created. The work that we are doing is a Band-Aid for a bullet wound,” Noreng said.
Community members and non-profit organizations fund the Amphi Foundation, and the grant money was donated, in part, by Angel Charity For Children Incorporated. The charity contributed $5,000 to this most recent round of funding for classroom projects.
Jane Peterson, an art specialist at Lulu Walker Elementary School, is one of the grant recipients. She said the grant will cover the cost of three iPads, but she will have to write “six maybe seven” more grants to have 20 iPads in her classroom, so students can create stop-motion video projects.
“I do fundraising on my own and I write grants to supplement classroom supplies,” she said. “I get very little from the district, maybe a dollar a child per year, which will buy them each a sharpie.”
Caroline Pechuzal, a biology teacher at Canyon Del Oro High School, also received grant money for a project she designed that demonstrates ecosystem nutrient transfer.
“I have been able to get funding from my department, but one challenge is that not all the funds come from the same place,” she said.
Pechuzal said she wants the district to trust teachers more to purchase education-related materials.
“A lot of businesses will give their employees a business credit card,” she said. “It would be nice if I had that trust not only from my administration and the district, but from tax payers and legislators to make decisions and use money for education in the most appropriate way for students; I would get a lot more done.”
Lori LaRussa, a second grade teacher at Innovation Academy, will use her grant for a “tradition awareness” project.
“We are reading a story called ‘Balloons over Broadway’. Students are going to do research on celebrations in different countries and plan their own parade similar to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade,” LaRussa said.
Other teachers who won funding come from Amphitheater High School, Amphitheater Middle School, Coronado K-8, Donaldson Elementary, Cross Middle School, Harelson Elementary School and more.
“Even if you don’t have kids of your own, our public schools have always been a cornerstone for the community,” Noreng said. “It is our responsibility to invest in our public schools and make sure every student gets the education that they deserve.”
Phillip Bramwell is a University of Arizona journalism student and Tucson Local Media intern.