Island Park Elementary auction to pay for school para-pros
By MOLLY FORT
Mercer Island Reporter Contributor
February 8, 2012 · Updated 10:00 AM
For the past several years, the Island Park Elementary School PTA has hosted various fundraising events in an effort to support their Hand-in-Hand program, which provides six teachers’ assistant positions. This year they will be hosting their 11th annual Hand-in-Hand auction on March 10 in hopes of raising $200,000 to retain the program for the 2012-2013 school year.
Although the planning committee expects a strong attendance this year, “We are in need of additional sponsors to support the event,” said Erin McLaughlin, auction chair. “Sponsors starting at the $250 level are given many opportunities to advertise their business at the auction in front of 300 guests, in addition to other members of the Island Park community through our website and various school publications. It is a great way to support our students while advertising at the same time.”
Patty Lewis, a second-grade teacher at Island Park, explains what the Hand-in-Hand program brings to the learning environment. “The program has become a vital part of how we personalize learning for our students. Our instructional assistants assess kids one-on-one in reading and math, then give teachers valuable feedback for what each child’s learning needs are. They also work with small groups to challenge students as well as support struggling students, reducing the class size and allowing classroom teachers to individualize instruction more effectively. Our kids are getting more targeted instruction and individual attention."
Some paraprofessionals at Island Park have a background in teaching, while others bring other professional skills such as marketing, architecture and accounting. Beyond giving individual instruction to each student, the Hand-in-Hand paraprofessionals also teach enrichment classes, ensure fair play during recess, and offer “Recess Camp” for those not as comfortable with participating in the traditional playground setting.
“At Recess Camp we offer art projects, Lego construction, chess matches and even teach kids to sew,” said Libby Wotipka, third-grade paraprofessional. “In the winter we sew pillows and donate them to nonprofit organizations. Often, kids ask to keep the pillows for themselves, which opens the opportunity for us to teach them about the necessity to give to those in need.”
Due to the lack of funds in the school budget to support the Hand-in-Hand program, the Island Park PTA and parents are responsible each year for raising 100 percent of the cost. Dr. Nancy Loorem, principal, appreciates the amount of effort it takes.
“Every year the PTA and parent volunteers dedicate a huge amount of time and energy to support this program. We all know how vital these paraprofessionals are to the success of our students. I don’t know what we would do without the help that these teaching assistants provide,” Loorem said.
Through community building events such as Bingo Night, a Sock-Hop and the Hand-in-Hand auction, as well as support from local businesses that donate a percentage of their sales throughout the year, Island Park has been able to keep the program going despite the recent economic downturn.
Donations for the auction have been collected from local businesses, parents, friends and teachers of the Island Park community, and students in each classroom collaborate to create a piece of art.
“I’m always amazed at pieces that the classes submit each year,” said Loorem. Artist and Mercer Island resident Jim Olson, who volunteered this year to help create a piece for Mrs. Lewis’ second-grade class, was inspired by the students’ creativity.
“One should never lose sight of the sense of wonder children experience in simple things,” Olson said. “This gift of youth, if maintained, will benefit us all as we age. In Mrs. Lewis’ class that day, I came away renewed.”
Tickets to attend the auction at the Washington State Convention Center Skybridge to support Island Park’s Hand-in-Hand program are available to the public.
To learn more about the event, or to purchase tickets, visit the Island Park PTA website at www.islandparkpta.org/handinhand.