Opinion

Schools Foundation invests in teachers too

Ellie Gittelman
Island Forum

Do you remember your best teachers from growing up? I know I do, and I bet you do, too. For me, I’ll never forget my 5th grade teacher, Mrs. Gilson. She was warm and loving, but also a tough grader who expected our best efforts. Because of her, I’ll always think fondly of the books we read that year, such as “A Wrinkle in Time” and “The Hobbit,” and I developed a real passion for reading.

We all want those special experiences and special teachers for our kids. We all hope that our children’s teachers will inspire them to have a life-long love of learning. Our hearts tell us that a fantastic teacher makes all the difference.

In fact, research shows that teachers really are the critical factor in our children’s schooling. New studies reveal that apart from family circumstances, the teacher is the number one determinant of student performance, even ahead of such important factors as curriculum and class size. And the best way to support our teachers is to donate to the Mercer Island Schools Foundation.

On March 27, the Mercer Island Schools Foundation will hold its fourth annual community and business leaders fundraising breakfast. The breakfast is a unique and uplifting event, demonstrating the work and opportunities that are made possible by individual and corporate donations to our schools. Guests hear first hand from business leaders, students and teachers.

This year’s program, “Investing in Teachers,” will showcase the many ways we help our teachers be the best they can be. For example, we support teachers earning their national board certification. And we’ll learn the stories of some of the inspiring teachers who’ve gone the extra miles to earn that credential, and what it means for our kids.

Beyond certification, the Mercer Island Schools Foundation funds a broad range of programs that support our excellent teachers, including professional development, enrichment grants, and technology training. We continue to fund new curriculum adoptions, so that our children will have the most up-to-date education possible. And our funding of all these things and more means that the Mercer Island School District can keep class sizes lower than would otherwise be possible. In so many ways, the Mercer Island Schools Foundation is essential to our schools.

In this, our 25th anniversary year, the Mercer Island Schools Foundation’s role has become more critical than ever. We all hear about the dreadful level of state funding—42nd in the nation in per-pupil spending and 46th in the nation in class size. What’s more, local districts’ hands are tied when it comes to raising taxes: local levies are capped by state law. So as state funding stagnates, private funding struggles to fill the gap.

That is where the Mercer Island Schools Foundation steps in, and we hope you will step in, too. Even if you have already donated at the Phone-a-Thon, please consider increasing your support. Please join us and our many corporate and business sponsors at the high school on March 27. Come celebrate 25 years of excellence in education with 500 of Greater Seattle's community and business leaders who will gather to demonstrate their support of our Mercer Island students, their teachers and our schools. To reserve your place at the breakfast table, please call 275-2550, or make your donation on-line at www.mercerislandschoolsfoundation.com/donate.asp.

Islander and parent Ellie Gittelman is on the board of the Mercer Island Schools Foundation.

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