In the Classroom, Out of Pocket: One Solution

In the Classroom, Out of Pocket: One Solution

FLORENCE COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - At least one local teacher has found a way to make sure children are set up to succeed without having to use her own money.

Valerie McElroy loves Greenwood Elementary School and her students. She love teaching, and loves DonorsChoose.org.

"As we know public schools, it's hard to get the supplies we need to better our teaching abilities," she said. "So DonorsChoose.org is a wonderful organization."

Her mobile unit might as well have a sign on it that says "Brought to you by crowdsourcing."

"It's funny because our custodian will knock on the door and say, 'I have another box for you,'" she said.

And the custodian has brought a lot of boxes.

Chromebooks, headphones, Hokki stools, books, the crates that the books are in, clipboards, new magnetic white board, computer ink, Kleenex, glue sticks, pencils, basic school supplies, desk tops; it all came from DonorsChoose.org.

"I can't afford to be able to provide those things for them," McElroy said. "When you see, like they say, it takes a village when you see these people that care about our students, that want them to do well."

She's had more than 100 projects get funded, but her dive into crowdsourcing had a frustrating start.

"The first time I posted was 2009, I remember, and it wasn't funded," McElroy said. "So it was a little discouraging at first. My first one that did fund was 2012."

That's three years of trying different things, seeing what got attention and eventually getting her web community to chip in enough money to fund the project for books for her library.

Now, McElroy has figured out how to craft a post, how to get attention and how to get more for her students. She's modest about her achievements, but another school employee said she has helped other teachers complete 98 projects this school year that were worth $40,000.

She's not just bringing in computers and school supplies.

"As a teacher we see our students need more than lessons," McElroy said. "We have students that are in need and Life Essentials is actually a program that just came out on DonorsChoose.org, where they're matching if it's for toothbrushes, toothpaste, things that our children need in order to come to school."

She's most proud of making her classroom one-to-one, a Chromebook for every student. She said it helps her be an effective teacher.

"What I do is what's called blended learning," McElroy said. "I'll have a small group up front working on something they need help with, introducing new skill. That way you're in a small group, you have their attention, they're more on task. My other students are working on their computers on lessons I have provided."

She's doing it with the help of her friends, family and people she's never met.

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