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Teacher quickly learns how to snare grants for students

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM



Cutting-edge educational tools are often out of reach for teachers in many of the region’s cash-strapped school corporations.

Language arts teacher Mallori Lucas, who teaches seventh grade at Union Township Middle School in Porter County, learned just that when she inquired about obtaining audio books for one of her challenged reading classes earlier in the school year.

“When I approached the school I was told they are very expensive … They just couldn’t afford it,” Lucas said.

The news did not stop her quest. Lucas said she remembered seeing a flier for Donors Choose, a grant program open to teachers around the country, posted in the lunchroom and decided to give it a try.

She had just two days before the deadline to submit a request for funding for the project — Lucas wanted to obtain enough audio books, CD players and headsets to equip her largest class of 32 — so she followed the instructions on the website and gave it a shot.

Her requests were successful. In fact, she has applied for close to $5,000 worth of funding since the start of the school year, all of it awarded in small increments, for supplies that have outfitted her classroom with the needed audio books, color printer, camcorder, label maker and more.

Students have been using the audio book equipment since February, and it is working as she had hoped, bringing up the reading and comprehension levels of students and getting them excited about reading.

Frank Reeves and Kierstin Bailey, both 13, are two of Lucas’ students who have taken to the audio books. Both were quick to point out how much they “hated” reading and were struggling to make their required reading points before the audio books.

“They really help with reading,” Frank said, adding with pride he has achieved 205 points so far this year after ending the last school year with just 50. The teen said he even finds himself reading on weekends and over spring break. He has been to the library and even bypasses the games at the bookstore now, opting instead to see what audio books in which he might be interested.

“It makes reading more interesting,” Kierstin said. “I like hearing the voices instead of reading it myself.”

Lucas said the books have been a help in the classroom, engaging students who otherwise did not like to read. She has been able to change the way she teaches, providing more personalized attention to students.

Now, she wants to let other Northwest Indiana teachers know they, too, may be able to qualify for funding for the classroom items they believe will help their students.

“This is my first year doing it. I was the first teacher in the building to try. I am overwhelmed by the amount I’ve received,” Lucas said.

How Donors Choose works

Donors Choose allows teachers to submit requests for consideration. Approved requests get posted on the Donors Choose website and individuals such as parents, teachers, community members or perfect strangers can make donations as small as $1 earmarked for that specific project.

The program also partners with businesses like Horace Mann, Google, Bing and Hewlett-Packard to offer donation coupons to customers in exchange for purchases or information such as email addresses. Those coupons can then be applied to projects on the site.

A Borders’ coupon program netted Lucas more than $1,000 toward her projects this year.

“If you really want something, there are ways to figure out how you can get it,” Lucas said.

Lucas is currently working on obtaining a digital camera for the yearbook staff. To see her latest project request visit www.donorschoose.org/mlucas.



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