Dollars Well Spent: How Grants Fulfill Teachers’ Wish Lists
Ask teachers what they love about teaching and they likely will say it is “watching a light bulb go off” in a student’s expression, which means the child has made a connection between a classroom exercise and real life. That is what drives 4th grade science teacher Allen Dolleris to get creative with classroom projects that both turn on his students, and ensure that the skills they learn will stick with them. Grants for purchase of classroom materials that Dolleris and other Nelson County Public Schools science teachers receive through The Nature Foundation at Wintergreen are a huge help. The Nature Foundation, in turn, receives a portion of its funding for teacher “wish lists” through grants from the Nelson County Community Fund (NCCF). Nelson County Advisory Committee member, Sue Klett, chatted recently with Dolleris about how he uses his “wish list” contributions to further students’ understanding of the role of science in their lives.
NCCF: How did you end up teaching at Rockfish Elementary for 18 years?
Dolleris: I majored in engineering at Bucknell University. Then I spent a lot of time teaching math and English in international schools overseas in places like Japan, Ecuador, and Morocco. I was teaching in Japan when a position opened up for a 5th grade science teacher at Rockfish Elementary. It was sort of a calling for me—I was socially miserable as a 4th and 5th grade student and I wanted to help kids at this age.
NCCF: What challenges have you seen as a teacher in Nelson County?
Dolleris: I bring engineering into teaching big time. I’m not so much an educator as an engineer. I build stuff. For instance, I build a connection between what we [the students] are doing with electrical currents and what happens under the hood of a car.
NCCF: So you “make it real” for students.
Dolleris: I try. My dad taught me how to fix things, how to make things last past their normal service life. He said, “Make it work and make it work well.” Still, he wasn’t a “green” [i.e., ecology-minded] guy like I am.
NCCF: What is an example of an item you’ve received with your wish list grants, and how have you used it in the classroom?
Dolleris: One big purchase was for 10 “Snap Circuits Jr.” kits that cost around $35 each. The circuit board kits are a huge time saver in teaching about electrical currents. Plus, the skills kids learn can be directly related to how electricity runs in a house, or an electric car, or even an integrated circuit, like a cell phone.
NCCF: Virginia Standards of Learning (SOL) requirements are said to loom large in teachers’ lesson plans these days. What’s an example of how you are addressing SOLs with your wish list projects?
Dolleris: Last year, I requested 10 anemometers to teach students how to measure wind speed. One of the SOL strands relates to weather, and selecting tools for measuring. I used the anemometers to teach students two scales, metric (meters per second) and customary (feet per second). They had a blast figuring out how fast the air comes out of the huge fan in the gym, which was developed into a major project using the scientific method.
NCCF: What will you do with the “Kill-A-Watt” voltage meter that you received as this year’s wish list item?
Dolleris: The “Kill-A-Watt” measures total electricity use over time in kilowatt-hours. You plug it into the wall socket, then plug an appliance into it to see how much energy it [the appliance] draws over time. My class project will be to have students see what appliances around the school are costing to operate. They’ll find that operating a vending machine is off the charts. But other items are amazingly efficient. The beauty of a Chromebook [student-issued laptop] is that it only pulls 11 watts of energy and it shuts off when you close it.
NCCF: All things being equal, what else would you put on your school wish list if you could?
Dolleris: More time to teach, and a classroom aide to help with labs. Science class is a 40-minute block with no extra time for labs. I have 60 students to teach. Kids get going [in a lab] and you can’t get them out the door. The boys love it—and girls, too. I’m determined to give girls the same amount of attention to teach them how to fix things.
NCCF: So what are you plans for Spring Break?
Dolleris: Build things! I also have a long fix-it list
Click this link to read interviews with other individuals and nonprofit organizations who have made wonderful use of your NCCF donations.
Blue Ridge Area Food Bank
~provides fresh, nutritional food to underserved areas via its mobile pantry.
Blue Ridge Interfaith Ministry
~gives emergency assistance to individuals and families.
Blue Ridge Medical Center’s Rural Health Outreach Program and Medication Assistance Program
~delivers preventive health services and prescription drugs to those in need.
DePaul Community Resources
~expands foster care options in Nelson County for children.
Georgia’s Healing House
~supports Nelson County women in recovery for drug and alcohol addiction and mental health challenges.
Girls on the Run of Central Virginia
~builds positive development in young girls through physical activity programs at county elementary schools.
Monticello Area Community Action Agency’s Community Outreach
~assists with utility payments and other crisis intervention.
Monticello Area Community Action Agency’s Project Discovery
~helps send Nelson County High School students to college through mentoring and scholarships.
Nature Foundation at Wintergreen
~provides environmental and cultural history learning opportunities for students.
Nelson County Community Development Foundation
~makes emergency repairs to the homes of the elderly and disabled.
Nelson Kid Care
~sends weekend supplemental food home with school children.
The Bridge Ministry, Inc.
~supports Nelson County men seeking rehabilitation from alcohol or drug addiction.
Unity in Community
~provides emergency financial assistance to families in need.
Please get in touch with us if you are interested in learning more about the Nelson County Community Fund. We also welcome your questions, comments, and suggestions.
Nelson County Community Fund
P.O. Box 253
Nellysford, VA 22958