HELENA — School begins next week for many students across the Helena area. And that means that teachers are already in their buildings, getting ready.
Next Wednesday marks the first day of school for elementary school students enrolled in Helena Public Schools. But teachers have already been hard at work during this month of August preparing for their students.
This year Rossiter Elementary is doing something a little different than in previous years. This year they’re asking each student to pay a $35 fee which will cover shared supplies for the students. This way every student already has their basic necessities for learning such as pencils, paper, erasers, and more. They are being asked to bring their own backpack, water bottle, and a pair of headphones.
Molly Schmidt, a first grade teacher at Rossiter Elementary, has been teaching for over two decades. She says that every year she spends anywhere from about $500 to $1,000 of her own money in order to make her classroom a welcoming environment with tools to help enhance learning.
“I try to spend some time in the summer getting my room ready so it's just a welcoming community, a welcoming classroom so kids and families can walk in on the first day and really feel comfortable, so I feel comfortable in all the different subject areas, and just with kids social emotional well-being, so they're happy learners ready to step in and learn,” says Schmidt.
While the $35 helps to cover the basic supply list for a year of learning, the extra materials brought in by teachers serve to enhance the students’ learning experience. For example, teachers can purchase items such as reading program enhancements, math enhancements, and decorations like plants and wallpaper. 1st grade teacher, Shana Berry, says that these purchases help create an environment that not only helps her students learn but also helps her teach them in the best ways she knows how.
“You want every day and every lesson to be the best that it can be, and every teacher has their own style of doing that. And the way that I love to teach is using a lot of hands-on, a lot of manipulative exploration work. And to do that the way that works best for me, I just need the materials.” says Berry.
Additionally, there is also community funding in order to help pay for enrichment opportunities for students. For example, Helena Education Foundation’s Spark Grants are offered to educators for projects to help enhance learning.
School begins next week for 1-6 graders, freshmen, and PAL students. Grades 7-8 and 10-12 begin school on August 31st, while kindergarteners start on September 5th.