Community investment

U.S. Cellular funds $10,500 worth of projects at Heritage High

Celebrating the more than $10,000 U.S. Cellular donated to fund projects at Heritage High School are, seated, from left, teachers Sherry Walker, Melba Roberts and Jennifer Axley; principal Patricia Mandigo; and teachers Rick Jennings and Kendall Terry; standing, from left, are teachers Lelia Rogers, Kelly Beason, Karen Miller, and Chris Clift; U.S. Cellular representatives Rob Hurst and Jack Brundige; and teachers Summer Russell and Deborah Lay.

Celebrating the more than $10,000 U.S. Cellular donated to fund projects at Heritage High School are, seated, from left, teachers Sherry Walker, Melba Roberts and Jennifer Axley; principal Patricia Mandigo; and teachers Rick Jennings and Kendall Terry; standing, from left, are teachers Lelia Rogers, Kelly Beason, Karen Miller, and Chris Clift; U.S. Cellular representatives Rob Hurst and Jack Brundige; and teachers Summer Russell and Deborah Lay.

Heritage High School choir director Chris Clift directs his students during class. Clift received money for folders, a digital recorder and conga drums.

Heritage High School choir director Chris Clift directs his students during class. Clift received money for folders, a digital recorder and conga drums.

Heritage High School ninth grade teacher Lelia Rogers leads a lesson. She received money for four flip video cameras.

Heritage High School ninth grade teacher Lelia Rogers leads a lesson. She received money for four flip video cameras.

Heritage High School ninth grade teacher Tiffany Sullivan, left, works with student Jordan Weaver. Sullivan received funding from U.S. Cellular for a set of “No Fear Shakespeare” textbooks.

Heritage High School ninth grade teacher Tiffany Sullivan, left, works with student Jordan Weaver. Sullivan received funding from U.S. Cellular for a set of “No Fear Shakespeare” textbooks.

Heritage High School has done it again.

Just months after Heritage claimed $100,000 in the U.S. Cellular “Calling All Communities” promotion that awarded $1 million to 10 schools across the country, Heritage has won again with U.S. Cellular. This time it was through the “Calling All Teachers” promotion.

Jack Brundige, director of sales for Tennessee/Western North Carolina, was on hand at the school library May 11 to celebrate. U.S. Cellular funded 23 projects for 14 Heritage teachers for more than $10,500.

The money paid for everything from textbooks, calculators and cameras to field trips. Teachers across the country submitted projects through the Calling all Teachers campaign.

“Everyone at Heritage High School is just in awe of the amount of money that U.S. Cellular is putting into education,” technology teacher Sherry Walker said. “It’s very exciting and much needed. Our teachers will put this funding to good use in our classrooms.”

During the Calling all Teachers campaign, teachers across the nation submitted their requests for classroom projects, equipment, trips and other needed items to DonorsChoose.org, a non-profit website that links donors with educators facing shrinking budgets.

When the company launched the campaign three weeks ago, it planned to fund $1 million worth of teachers’ requests for classroom supplies to DonorsChoose.org, but the response from teachers was beyond expectations. The website received more than 2,000 submissions in the markets where U.S. Cellular does business.

“The response to this campaign from teachers across our footprint was so incredible that we couldn’t imagine leaving any of their classroom projects unfunded,” Brundige said. “Our teachers go above and beyond for their students everyday. So we decided to go above our original $1 million budget to support all of them.”

Walker was excited about the campaign when she spoke to Blount Today on May 7 at the school. Even then Heritage High was outpacing even the Knox County school system in the amount of projects funded. “As of yesterday we had 21 projects funded and Knox County as a whole had 20. I think that says something. Everybody here is so excited,” Walker said.

Walker said that in April principal Patricia Mandigo sent her an email about a new U.S. Cellular promotion. Initially, Walker, who was one of the driving forces behind the school’s participation in the “Calling All Communities” contest earlier, didn’t realize what the promotion was. “I blew it off,” Walker said.

A few days later, Walker had the chance to check again, and she learned about the “Calling All Teachers” promotion. “They’re going to fund $1 million in teachers’ projects,” she said.

Guidelines stated teachers had to put the information for their individual projects on the DonorsChoose.org website from April 15 to May 1. “Teachers place projects on the website they want to do but that don’ t normally get funded,” Walker explained.

Heritage High did well in the promotion. “Almost someone in every one of our departments had a project funded,” Walker said. “It’s really kind of amazing.”

Art teacher Karen Miller has been a teacher five years and started with Heritage High School in January. U.S. Cellular funded two of Miller’s projects. “I asked for $365 for ceramic glazes, and I asked for $230 for yarns for a weaving project,” she said. “I was so excited. I’ve never gotten anything. I’m thrilled.”

The glazes in particular will help with students’ projects. “Students love the clay,” she said. “Clay is the most fun of all the projects.”

Wellness teacher Summer Russell said she averages 90 students in her class and two other wellness teachers have about the same number of students each semester. Wellness teachers don’t get their own classroom.

“We had a laptop funded, and it was about $800,” she said. “We float. We also don’t have enough textbooks, so we put everything on Powerpoint and put it on a projector,” she said. “The laptop will allow us to be more mobile. Since we float, we couldn’t take a P.C. (personal computer) and travel with it.”

Russell said she appreciated the corporate support from U.S. Cellular. “It’s refreshing to know people care about education and students,” she said.

Freshman English teacher Lelia Rogers got flip video cameras with money from U.S. Cellular. Rogers said she applied but didn’t think she would get any funds. “You never expect to hear back,” she said.

Then Rogers learned her project was funded. “I was really surprised. It was a lot of money. I asked for $973. In this bad economy, you don’t expect people to be funding dream projects,” she said. “My students are really excited.”

One of the first assignments with the cameras will be for students to film a version of the classic story “The Odyssey.”

“I’m really excited and so appreciative of U.S. Cellular. They’ve been so supportive of our school.”

Walker was excited about the promotion. “Every teacher who submitted a project has been funded,” she said.

Freshman English teacher Tiffany Sullivan got $160 for a set of “No Fear - Shakespeare” textbooks. When the textbook is opened, one page gives the original version and the facing page gives a modern translation. “I got a class set of 30. I was hopeful but at the same time I didn’t really think it would happen. I’m a pessimist. It helps my faith in the public.”

Chris Clift, choral teacher, is getting funds for items like conga drums, Pocketrak digital recorder and choir folders. “It’s nice to know that someone is out there to help you,” he said.

Brian Bell, assistant superintendent for facilities and technology with the Blount County School system, praised U.S. Cellular’s generosity and Walker’s dedication. “U.S. Cellular is an outstanding company with a great dedication to the education of kids in Blount County,” he said. “Heritage High School is a better place because of U.S. Cellular and because of Sherry Walker.”

Brundige praised Heritage High teachers for their persistence in participating in U.S. Cellular promotions. “This week U.S. Cellular is giving $1 million to teachers across the country to fund projects,” he said. “Heritage High School has proven you are overachievers. You have more projects funded than any school in Tennessee.”

Brundige said statistics show that nationwide, teachers spend about $1,200 a year out of their own pockets for supplies and to help educate students. Brundige said U.S. Cellular gave more than $10,000 for more than 20 projects at Heritage. “That was more than $10,000 out of $47,000 for all of Tennessee,” he said. “That’s pretty amazing.”

Walker said the US Cellular promotion is just the beginning. DonorsChoose.org website is an independent website that individuals can search to find projects and needs they want to assist. On DonorsChoose.org, projects can be viewed by state, county, school and even individual classrooms. “You view a project, and, if you like it, donate to it,” Walker said. “If people have a favorite school, they can support their school by donating to the teacher’s project.”

Walker said businesses and corporations also can donate and get a tax write-off.

Heritage projects funded:

Chris Clift -- $848 for choir folders, conga drums and a digital recorder

Jennifer Axley -- $539.96 for four graphing calculators

Sherry Walker -- $1,070 for a multi-media projector and screen and a camcorder

Kendall Terry -- $854 for culture vials, a multi-media cart, a Genetics of Organisms AP lab, Lab Investigation 8 lab stations for 32 students, satellite speakers and subwoofer and net gear

Lelia Rogers -- $973 for four flip video cameras

Tiffany Sullivan -- $160 for a set of “No Fear Shakespeare” textbooks

Karen Miller -- $635 for ceramic glazes and yarn

Summer Russell -- $680 for a laptop computer for wellness classes

Melba Roberts -- $977.27 for Spanish books and a widescreen notebook computer

Rick Jennings -- $394 for 13 scientific calculators and two graphing calculators

Patricia Effler -- $413.69 for 41 high interest/low vocabulary books

Teachers Kelly Beason, Deborah Lay and Katie Amspaugh also received funds but the amount and the specifics of their projects weren’t available.

Also receiving funding from U.S. Cellular through the “Calling All Teachers” program are:

Lori Wilson at Heritage Middle School

Karen Dunn at Maryville Middle School

Deborah Segar at Union Grove Middle School

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