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GARDEN GROVE : Teachers Pitch In to Help Victims of Fire

A fire that gutted two kindergarten classrooms at Newhope Elementary School in July also deprived 120 kindergarten students of handmade books and teaching games for the new school year.

But on Tuesday, more than 50 teacher volunteers from throughout the Garden Grove Unified School District re-created the one-of-a-kind learning materials from scratch, producing in assembly-line fashion dozens of language books and memory games made of laminated construction paper, as well as bulletin board signs.

Newhope kindergarten teacher Vickie Priddy, one of four teachers whose rooms were destroyed, said she heard about the blaze while she was on vacation. When she returned to see the charred building, she said, “I was just appalled. . . . It was like a Stephen King movie. The lights were all melted and hanging from the ceiling by a string.”

More than 120 kindergarten students will be directly affected by the fire when school starts Sept. 5, and hundreds of other students will be indirectly affected by what school officials call a “shell game” that will move students around to ensure enough classroom space. The school, at 4419 W. Regent Drive, will also use trailers as classrooms during reconstruction of the burned building.

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Priddy said the only thing she could salvage from her classroom was a shoe box filled with seashells. But her colleagues helped her and other Newhope teachers regain what was, for a short while, believed to be lost forever.

Volunteer Sharon Hamilton, a teacher at Ethel M. Evans Elementary School, said Tuesday’s large turnout of volunteers was “heartwarming. It’s nice to see people pull together. When something this bad happens, it seems that something good comes out of it.”

Nancy Jo Price, a kindergarten teacher at Paine Elementary School, said teachers wanted to help because “everybody knows what it would be like if they were in (that) position.”

McGarvin Intermediate School teacher Suzanne Russo said the six-hour effort would make a significant difference to the kindergarten teachers.

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“You wouldn’t be able to teach up to speed” without the materials lost in the fire. “The kids and the teachers would be farther behind if you didn’t have the things to teach with.”

“I think it’s nice, seeing teachers helping teachers. Helping others is what teaching is all about,” she added.

While the volunteers who chipped in to re-create the learning materials were all Garden Grove school district employees, Santa Ana police officers donated $450 and local merchants donated a VCR and a color television.

School officials are seeking donations of books, dolls, plastic farm animals, records and games. Donations may be made to the Newhope Parent-Teacher Assn., 4419 W. Regent Drive., Santa Ana 92704. For more information, call 663-6581.

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