Fund-raiser helps RFPEF make the grade |

Fund-raiser helps RFPEF make the grade

For Bonnie Fischer, who’s taught for 34 years, every day feels like the first day of school.

Fischer was one of 29 teachers who received a professional grant from the Roaring Fork Public Education Foundation for 2005. The foundation also awarded 52 teachers with grants that ranged from $100 to $1,000.

The foundation, which creates community partnerships to promote excellence in public education, held its annual fund-raising gala April 16 at the Roaring Fork Club in Basalt.

“The foundation has been really good to the teacher,” said Fischer, who teaches technology and media to second- through fifth-graders at Carbondale Elementary. “The teacher is the heartbeat of the school; without the foundation, we wouldn’t be able to better ourselves and become teachers that meet the needs of all children.”

While Fischer says that technology changes on a daily basis, it appears all teachers face budget cuts, large classes and diverse classrooms.

“We need to be on the forefront of everything,” she said.

Although the school district passed a mill levy override and bond issue last year, the foundation is important because it gives money to teachers in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood for innovative teaching and professional development that cannot be met through the general fund.

“I don’t have the funds to support all the great ideas,” said Lyn Bair, principal of Bridges High School.

That is when RFPEF steps in with money donated from local businesses, governments and individuals.

Clay and Louise Bennett, owners of Town Center Booksellers, an independent bookstore in Basalt, granted $500 to the RFPEF. Store manager Fred Durham doubled the school’s buying power through the store’s wholesale costs which allowed Bridges to buy twice the amount of books which included classics, historical nonfiction and current history. “I’ve seen more kids reading because learning is coming to them in a different way,” said Bair.

Grant recipient Lois Alvarez, who teaches art at Basalt Elementary, used her money for an artist-in-residence, which gave her students a deeper understanding of culture, as well as the technological and development aspects of created art. “It helps develop the whole brain,” she said.

Innovative materials allow teachers to unify basic concepts with literacy kits, math enhancement programs, a forensic science program or a documentary project.

“It’s the kind of things they are going to remember,” said Nell Birk, who is a grant recipient, a teacher, and has a son, Colter, in Aimee Howe’s sixth-grade literacy class at Basalt Middle School.

“He never liked reading; now he’s into it,” she said.

Howe uses grant money to buy special materials that helps enhance her teaching method that she tailors to her students’ needs and interests.

As school districts are forced to stretch every dollar, work with leaner budgets, manage larger, bilingual classes and keep up with technology that develops at breakneck speed, some things do not change.

“You take the children who walk through the door and you teach them,” said Fischer. “It doesn’t matter what’s going on. I’m giving children skills to go out into the world.”

Alvarez remembered her students’ reaction to her art grant program. “They were sitting on the edge of their seats the whole time,” she said. “I promise you. They will never forget.”

It is the same exhilaration that has kept Fischer in school for more than three decades.

“That excitement of the first day never went away,” said Fischer.

“That’s why I’m still here.”

Bob and Tracy Bennett, of Basalt. Bob works at Aspen Sports, and Tracy owns Midland Shoe Company and is president of the Roaring Fork Public Education Foundation.

Carolyn Golbus, of Basalt, is a mom; and Steve Skinner, who emceed the event, is an advertising representative and a columnist at the Aspen Daily News.

Grant Barrette, of Carbondale, is the food and beverage director at the Sky Hotel in Aspen; and Daisie Foglesong, of Carbondale, teaches third grade at Carbondale Elementary.

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