Teacher-Funded Classroom Makes Collaboration a Top-Priority

Katherine Haulter teaches 92 students in her 6th and 8th grade Honors English classes at River Valley Middle School in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Her classroom’s budget is completely self-funded, so she has to rummage for class materials or spend her own money to supply them.

She spends around $3,000 each year to keep her classroom stocked with office supplies, novels, printer ink, project materials, light bulbs, educational software, and any materials that her students need but don’t have. Katherine has made it her responsibility to keep any of her students from feeling left behind.

“These students are my children,” said Katherine. “I want them to get as far as they can and do as many wonderful things as they can so that when they get into high school they don’t feel like they’re limited. They’ve had every opportunity that the kids in the private schools have had, and at this point it’s coming out of my own pocket.”

“Most of my desks and tables are probably from at least 30 years ago,” she said. “We have to scavenge for them in the building because there aren’t many tables.”

This year, Katherine replaced half of the aged desks in her classroom with three tables. Two of them were once used as cafeteria tables and the other was a hand-me-down given by another teacher. Katherine uses these tables as a way for students to easily work together.

“We’re trying to get them to work as collaboratively as they can,” says Katherine.

Katherine only uses around 20 to 30 percent of the class period to give lectures. The students spend a majority of their time working together to complete hands-on learning activities. Katherine believes that this empowers students and allows them to “take ownership of their learning.”

20160405_122226-1“I want them to become intelligent in school stuff,” said Katherine. “But I also want them to be able to go out into the world and have an understanding of other people and how to work with other people.”

In one of the more popular classroom activities, students are put into groups to collaborate on learning exercises. When their time is up, the groups rotate to a different station and work together on a new activity. According to Jacob, one of Katherine’s 8th grade Honors English students, it’s activities like this that have helped his peers improve.

“They’ve been having a hard time reading,” said Jacob. “With her encouragement, they’ve been reading more and their lifestyle has shot up.”

This hands-on approach to learning may be helping these students, but Katherine must fund it from her own pocket. And sometimes even that isn’t enough.

These classrooms aren’t just in need of supplies, but the majority of them have to go without full walls and doors. Katherine’s class is fortunate enough to have four walls and a door. However, her room doesn’t have any windows. Even without windows, Katherine’s 8th grade Honors English student, Bella, believes that the classroom’s tone remains “really bright and energetic.”

While not every classroom in Katherine’s school has its material or structural needs met, all of the students are given access to technology. As a part of a one-to-one computing initiative, River Valley Middle School is able to provide each student with a Chromebook for the year. They can use them for educational purposes in the classroom and even take them home at night.

Students are equipped with Chromebooks and select educational apps, but some of the costs still fall to the teachers. The licensing fees for the apps used in Katherine’s class cost anywhere from one to ten dollars per student. These costs add up quickly when she purchases programs for 92 students from her personal funds.

Funding an entire classroom alone may not be easy, but Katherine continues to do so in order to give her students the confidence to succeed. Whenever she supplies her students with the materials they need, she’s shifting their attention away from the things they don’t have and creating a level playing field.

“By not providing those things, we would then be perpetuating the idea that they can only reach certain heights or certain limits, and that they are predetermined to only get to a certain level of economic or social success in life,” she said. “By providing those things as teachers, we’re able to help them see past that.”

To help Katherine keep her classroom stocked with supplies, make a donation on her classroom profile at AdoptAClassroom.org.

Do you know of another classroom in need of supplies? Find the classroom using our search tool to make a donation.