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North Penn educator: Teachers spend hundreds of dollars to be good at their jobs | Perspective
by Alan M. Malachowski, For the Inquirer
Imagine if you walked into a new job and learned that you were expected to supply your own materials to do that job to the best of your ability.
That’s the conundrum faced by an overwhelming 94 percent of teachers, who spent $479 of their own money, on average, during the 2014–15 school year, according to a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics released in May. That same study showed that 9 percent of elementary school teachers spent even more, logging expenses in excess of $1,001 for the year.
Locally, teachers in Bucks and Montgomery Counties weighed in on the question of personal spending for school supplies in a recent small and informal Facebook poll.
The highest number of respondents spent between $251 and $500. Some reported that their expenses exceeded that number, with one individual tallying more than $1,001. One educator stated that she doesn’t “get any budget as a special education teacher,” and another indicated that it “depends on the year but last year I spent a lot when I did flexible seating.”
Teachers purchase not only basic supplies but also clothing, food, and personal hygiene items for students who would otherwise go without. Taken together, these expenditures can total more than $1 billion every year out of their pockets.
In recent years, some teachers have turned to crowd-sourced websites to raise funds for their classrooms, but we wonder why adequate funds are not allocated to cover the basics and the enriching materials that are required to bring a 21st century classroom to life.
In some districts, educators pay for basics such as paper and pencils, but in others their funds cover the “extras.”
Do these materials really matter? Teachers believe that a classroom that is engaging and well-decorated with sufficient supplies for creative learning can be transforming, especially for students from low-income homes. Those classrooms help to make students more assured and expand their limits. For example, the crowdfunded website Donorschoose.org indicates that “94 percent of teachers said their funded projects increased their effectiveness in the classroom.”
As teachers, we believe that our students deserve the materials and stimulation that make learning exciting, and that placing this additional financial burden on teachers is unfair. In the ongoing conversations about local and state education funding, we need to advocate for common-sense solutions that provide teachers and students with sufficient resources and enrichment so that every child can excel without educators reaching further into their own pockets.
Isn’t it time to take another look at this issue?
Alan M. Malachowski is president of the Pennsylvania State Education Association, Mideastern Region, and an elementary school music teacher in the North Penn School District.
Credit: The Philadelphia Inquirer
Reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act means that the largest source of federal funding will continue flowing to vocational-technical schools across the country.
Top administrators at vocational-technical schools across the country — including those in Bucks and Eastern Montgomery counties — got a good piece of financial news recently.
Congressional reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act means that the largest source of federal funding for such institutions will continue.
Named for the late Kentucky congressman who championed career and technical education throughout his career, the act has reauthorized increases in total funding for the nation’s vocational schools by about $75 million, from the $1.125 billion of last school year to $1.2 billion for the 2018-19 school year that started July 1.
“It’s a great victory for us,” said Leon Poeske, administrative director at Bucks County Technical High School in Bristol Township.
The school draws students from the Bensalem, Bristol Borough, Bristol Township, Morrisville, Neshaminy and Pennsbury school districts.
“It’s huge for us because we use most of the money from it for our facilitators who aid students who are struggling and need extra help that’s crucial for their continued success,” Poeske added.
While he was on vacation and didn’t have access to exact numbers, Poeske said he anticipated a slight increase from the $410,000 BCTHS got from the Perkins Act last school year.
Middle Bucks Institute of Technology Administrative Director Kathryn Strouse said the Warwick school will get a $17,955 increase in Perkins Act money this school year, from $265,000 to $282,995. It will be used for a special education teacher, half the expenses for a school counselor and 12 instructional assistants, Strouse said.
“The fact we have this money and can employ these people with their particular areas of expertise helps kids be successful in their chosen careers,” said Strouse, whose school draws students from the Centennial, Central Bucks, Council Rock and New Hope-Solebury school districts.
At Upper Bucks County Technical School in Bedminister — which draws students from the Palisades, Pennridge and Quakertown Community school districts — Executive Director Jeff Sweda also applauded the action on Perkins.
“Everyone knows that in today’s economy there is a tremendous shortage of skilled workers in various trades throughout the state and country,” Sweda said. “Vocational education is coming to the forefront, and federal legislators realize how important it is to help in the training of these young people to become trades people.”
Perkins funding for Upper Bucks Technical will increase by $7,000 this school year, from $116,000 to $123,000, Sweda said. The money will be used for instructional facilitators, professional development for teachers to help them become better at their crafts and equipment for the health careers, plumbing and auto collision programs, he added.
“Without this Perkins funding, we’ve have to try to get the money for those things from our sending districts or some other source,” Sweda said.
Eastern Center for Arts and Technology Executive Director Thomas Allen said he was gratified by the support of technical education at the federal level.
“This (Perkins Grant reauthorization) was a truly bipartisan bill that was passed at a time when it’s tough to find agreement on anything,” he said. “It communicated to everyone there is a huge support for career and technical education.”
Allen said the $260,000 Eastern will get from the Perkins Act this school year — a $10,000 increase from 2017-18 — will go toward instructional assistants and professional development for teachers. The Upper Moreland school draws students from the Abington, Cheltenham, Jenkintown, Hatboro-Horsham, Lower Moreland, Springfield, Upper Dublin and Upper Moreland school districts.
U.S. Senator Bob Casey, D-Pa., who said he was the primary Democratic author of the bipartisan legislation that reauthorized the Perkins Act, said in a news release it will help “update education and job training to meet the needs of the local economies, ensuring students have the skills needed to remain competitive.”
Credit: Bucks County Courier Times
When we heard about Emily Murray, a Spanish teacher of eighth and ninth graders and National Junior Honor Society Advisor at Tamamend Middle School in Central Bucks, we said, “Si Señora – we would like to feature you as this week’s #TeacherTuesday!”
Emily says she’s inspired by her students to lead her class every day. “Their curiosity, enthusiasm and genuine interest in learning to communicate in a new language is contagious!” She also notes, “They challenge me to be my best and encourage me to take risks with new activities and lessons that enhance their learning experience.”
Who’s our next #TeacherTuesday? You know that perfect educator who goes beyond all expectations to give his or her students an outstanding experience, so help us spread the word about the amazing work they do by messaging us on this page.
The Strengthening Career and Technical Education for the 21st Century Act, co-authored and championed by our own Sen. Bob Casey, received bipartisan support and was signed into law on July 31, 2018 making it a solid win for students and businesses across the country.
The National Education Association (NEA), and the Association for Career & Technical Education, were instrumental in getting bipartisan support for the overhaul of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act which is critical for the state’s school districts. The funds from this source contributed $41M to Pennsylvania alone during the past school year.
According to Sen. Casey, “Reauthorizing and updating the Perkins program is critical to creating jobs, growing wages and ensuring our workers have the tools to out-compete anyone in the world.” He added, “We were able to work together in a bipartisan manner on legislation that will strengthen career pathways, foster innovation and improve access for traditionally underrepresented populations, including students with disabilities, and ensure better outcomes for all students, educators and our economy. I am particularly proud that we secured a change to the funding formula that will ensure Pennsylvania gets a fair share of allocations going forward.”
Highlights of the bill include:
This the first time that the Perkins CTE Act has been reauthorized since 2006, and “this legislation would encourage states, schools and local CTE providers to update education and job training to meet the needs of the local economies, ensuring students have the skills needed to remain competitive,” said Sen. Casey. It would also … “promote collaboration between stakeholders so that local businesses can communicate their needs to states and educators as strategies and programs are developed.”
According to Alan M. Malachowski, a representative of the Council for the Advancement of Public Schools (CAPS), “We are grateful for Sen. Casey’s leadership on this issue which greatly impacts students and businesses in our community.” He added, “Bucks and Montgomery counties boast seven CTE schools and we are proud of the phenomenal opportunities they provide for students to be trained for in-demand jobs, earn college credits while still in high school, and be prepared for the military.”
Congratulations to Eric Harlan and Dominic Carbone, the first Bucks County Technical High School students to ever win the Greater Philadelphia Automotive Technology competition, held in spring 2018. The pride of their teacher, Byron Cesari was very apparent: “They are very good students, both very self-confident and self-motivated,” he told The Intelligencer.
Allison Levin paints her classroom with kindness and we’re delighted to feature this Central Bucks High School West fine arts instructor and one of the sponsors of the CB West National Art Honor Society as this week’s #TeacherTuesday.
She says her students “are truly one-of-a-kind” but she helps engender that spirit as she creates the art room as “a place of community, acceptance, perseverance, kindness and creativity.” Says Allison, “My students refer to themselves as an ‘art family,’ as I am their ‘art mom’ and they are my ‘art babies.’”
She also notes that “They work hard, producing high quality, technically advanced and creative works of art. The fine arts room at CB West is a place where students feel safe, motivated, inspired and connected to one another.” She is also grateful that her “classroom becomes an extension of my own family.”
Message us to suggest another fantastic teacher who deserves to be featured as our next #TeacherTuesday.”
Spring-Ford School District Science Teacher Dan Leppold was selected as one of just 32 people to be a special guest at NASA Wallops in Virginia to experience the preparation and launch of a cargo resupply rocket and spaceship destined for the International Space Station. Over the three days he spent onsite, he was treated to a wide range of experiences. He met NASA Director Jim Birdenstine and Astronaut Kay Hire, as well as a team of researchers focused on the space station. Then he had a brief chat with Nobel Prize winner and Principal Investigator Eric Cornell about the station’s Cold Atom Lab. And, of course, he received VIP seating for the launch from an area just over two miles away.
“It was a great trip with a lot of experiences that I can share with my students,” Dan says. “It matches our curriculum perfectly.”
Dan is just one of numerous teachers bringing out-of-this-world experiences to their students!
The recent grads from the region’s seven Career and Technical Education (CTE) High Schools left with impressive resumes and plans for the future, including immediate job offers and opportunities to attend prestigious universities such as Cornell, Johns Hopkins, Tulane and the University of Pennsylvania, as well as programs such as The Restaurant School at Walnut Hill College, Jean Madeline Aveda Institute, and the Automotive Training Center.
One thing is clear – there is something for everyone at our CTE schools and whether grads opted to attend college, join the military, or go straight to the workforce, their high school years have prepared them for the next step (and saved their family’s resources as many college-bound students have acquired numerous credits, and others are ready to enter their chosen careers with industry certifications they acquired in high school).
For example, at Bucks County Technical High School in Fairless Hills, of the 290 grads, a whopping 84 percent are going on for post-secondary education, with nearly one-third choosing Bucks County Community College, another seven percent serving their country in the military, and nine percent heading directly to the workforce.
The North Montco Technical Career Center (NMTCC) in Lansdale graduated 256 students this year. Of those, 45 percent plan to attend college in the field they studied, while another 10 percent plan to pursue a different career path in college.
Among those who plan to enter the workforce, 27 percent want to work in the field they studied while at NMTCC, while another 10 percent hope to enter the workforce in an area unrelated to their area of concentration.
Our military will absorb an additional five percent of these well-prepared young men and women, with a mere three percent undecided at the time of the survey.
We’re proud of the wide range of opportunities provided across our region and invite parents and students to investigate how they can get a “leg-up” by enrolling in a Career and Tech Ed School. Learn more about the opportunities offered.
“Research shows that magical things happen when a child interacts with a certified therapy dog. Anxiety levels decrease, heartbeat slows, breathing becomes deeper and more relaxed, and fears are forgotten. When a child feels calm and secure, not only is learning possible, but physical and emotional healing are achieved,” says Sharon Fleck, president of Roxy Therapy Dogs, who is responsible for the program in which volunteers take therapy dogs into 130 classes serving 3200 kids each week in the 14 elementary schools of Central Bucks School District, as well as other community sites such as the pediatric unit of Doylestown Hospital and Bucks County Courthouse.
Roxy Therapy Dogs visit students in classes serving mainstream, autistic, Life Skills, and those with multiple disabilities, but by far, the largest program in Central Bucks is the reading program. This is designed for students who are struggling with fluency and experiencing a lot of stress. “If a child pets or sits next to a dog — who doesn’t judge and doesn’t care if they need more time to pronounce a word — it means everything to that child who might be a reluctant reader,” says Sharon. It helps them to “feel more confident, more competent, and become good readers,” she adds.
This enthusiastic volunteer in the non-profit organization says that there are 75 teams with some handlers having more than one dog, and that any breed can be a therapy dog as long as it’s “calm and not easily startled by loud children, touching, or crutches.” All types of dogs participate and several have disabilities themselves, such as a missing eye or deafness, and it’s important for kids to see that “the dogs are different, not less capable.”
“The service or therapy dogs know when they’re helping people; they take it seriously,” notes Sharon. While “some dogs do agility or diving, they behave differently once they put the vest on. They take on a different mindset when it’s time to hang out with kids and work.”
You can learn more about this phenomenal program, as well as the human and canine volunteers who give their time and love and check out their video at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJ_KIIpDqtA&t=69s
“She connects with kids like no other and teaches them how to live,” said a student about this week’s #TeacherTuesday, Mary McDonald, a Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Central Bucks High School West. She believes that “food is medicine” and places a heavy emphasis on the importance of eating whole foods as she leads her students in a daily lab, reinforcing why that’s the case and showing them how “medicine” can taste very good.
This inspiring teacher believes that you can’t be good at anything until you practice, and with that in mind, she offers her students the opportunity to cook daily. The result is a fun environment where students can enjoy the process of preparing wholesome foods, without the fear of making mistakes, and in the company of friends of all abilities.
This year, Mary implemented a “Give Back Garden” that will produce vegetables and herbs to support the cooking classes as well as the Cooking for the Homeless club after school.
Tell us what other teachers add some spice to life and we’ll feature them in an upcoming #TeacherTuesday.