Assistance League lends financial hand to teachers

With computers all over school campuses these days, teachers are finding ways to help students get the most out of the technology.

Fourth-grade teacher Mary Hardy's effort to do just that received a boost Monday when she was awarded a chunk of the money being donated by the Assistance League of Huntington Beach Links to Learning program.

The group gave $19,917 to 53 teachers in the Huntington Beach City School District.

Hardy will use some of the money she was given to create a news broadcast program at Huntington Seacliff Elementary School this year.

"These kids are so technologically savvy, they know way more than I do," she said. "Last year, I helped a girl working on an iMovie. I was learning it and I was slow as molasses doing it. She came in the next day telling me that I could do this and this. She knew how to do it like that."

The Assistance League, which works to give back to the community through various programs, has been giving money to teachers in the district since 2011 and to the Fountain Valley and Westminster school districts since 2008, program Chairwoman Lynne Wilhelm said.

She said League members, who are primarily former school teachers, noticed that the organization had not been helping teachers with the costs of doing their job.

"We were very well aware of the expenses that the teachers go through in the classroom," Wilhelm said.

Assistant Supt. Jennifer Shepard said she's grateful for what the Assistance League is doing for school districts.

"It means a lot as an educator to be able to have your ideas be supported like that," she said, "And to find a benefactor that cares enough about what's going on in that classroom to help you make it happen."

Though the nonprofit is willing to write checks and help teachers, potential recipients face hurdles. Wilhelm said her program committee reads each application and identifies whether the suggested use of the money is worthy of a grant.

"We do go over the applications and criticize them if we feel that the information isn't correct or is lacking," she said. "We might give the teacher a break and ask them to modify it a little bit to be more acceptable. But for the most part, they're pretty explicit about what they want the money for."

This year's donation is up from the $16,083 given last year, Wilhelm said. She added that an application last year for $9,000 was turned down because of insufficient funding.

Assistance League programs rely on a major fundraiser in the spring and sales at the group's thrift store near Slater Avenue and Beach Boulevard, Wilhelm said.

"We're always looking for more money so we can support more teachers," she said. "We are looking into expanding our program, but we have to review that because we have schools in Huntington Beach and other areas that we haven't reached. Huntington Beach City is bigger than people think."

Hardy said she's excited to start the program with her students and hopes it will be a success.

She's planning to work mainly with Seacliff's student council to produce news briefs on events at the school.

"They could run mini-newscasts on all the activities that are happening on campus," Hardy said. "They do so many philanthropic activities, like raising money for Hurricane Katrina. So I thought we could make a little iMovie of it, show it at our assemblies or PTA board."

She's also thinking of having her fourth-grade students make video packages on the California Gold Rush and other historically significant topics instead of the conventional projects.

"They could put together a movie explaining what they've learned rather than just writing a report, drawing a picture and putting it up on the board," Hardy said. "It's more technological and more glamorous to them."

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