Show & Tell

February 2022

When Suwannee Valley Electric Cooperative (SVEC) launched Operation Round Up in 2019, our goal was to give back to the community that has always supported us. In the three years since, we have been able to award more than $300,000 to local schools, giving our students the resources they need to be successful. This month, we’re taking a look at a few of the ways those grants have been put to good use.

Suwannee High School

Traci Green has been a teacher at Suwannee High School for 22 years. But when she joined the art department several years ago as a 3D art instructor, she knew materials would be a challenge.

“For projects that align with the standards I needed to cover, there were a lot of supplies that we honestly just didn’t have the money for,” she says.

While there were other grants available, most of them excluded items, such as clay, paint, and glue, her classroom needed. Only Operation Round Up allowed her to obtain these essentials.

“It’s really hard to do some art projects without something as simple as paint and glue,” she says. “So we would have been working with very limited supplies without this grant.”

Green has been able to see the results on the faces of her students, many of whom had never before had the chance to work with clay.

“It can be intimidating at first because some kids haven’t even experienced something like Play-Doh,” she says. “But as they start working with clay you see the metaphorical light bulb, and their faces light up. If nothing else, it builds character and confidence to know they can create something with their own hands.”

Donald Ralph Cooke School

When the Donald Ralph Cooke School at the Boys Ranch made the decision to transition from a public school to a private one in the 2021-22 school year, an updated curriculum was one of the first priorities for Director of Education Dana Drawdy.

“We don’t have teachers who teach just algebra or just biology like other high schools do. We have one teacher who teaches science, one who teaches math, and so on,” she says. “Having a curriculum where everything is written out — tests are prepared and ready — really helps teachers manage their workload.”

The new curriculum is built with ACT and SAT prep in mind for 6th-12th grade. Drawdy’s goal is for students to be better prepared if they choose to pursue further education.

“If we can start at the middle school level, hopefully, by the time they graduate, they’re ready for college, technical school or the workforce. Whichever is best for them,” she says.

While the Operation Round Up grant the school received didn’t cover the entire curriculum, Drawdy estimates that it paid for one grade level. Even in the first semester, the results have already been noticeable for students.

“Our students who have come in behind have improved their GPAs,” she says. “Even students who came in almost a whole semester behind have been able to make up some of the work they’ve been missing. So it’s made a big difference.”

Hamilton County Elementary School

Joanie Howell’s fifth-grade classroom is built to engage her students. Their desks have dry-erase surfaces for working out problems, color-coded folders, and baskets for assignments. Task cards hang around the room with different problems to solve.

“No child likes to sit there and just listen to the teacher talk for an hour and a half,” she says. “Even we adults can’t sit there and listen to someone talk and not get distracted.”

When Howell heard about Operation Round Up, she naturally thought of ways to further improve the classroom experience for her students. One purchase she made was a deck of jumbo playing cards, which she uses to help students visualize problems with fractions and mixed numbers.

“I tell them to take the face cards out and they create their mixed numbers or fractions based on the cards they flip over,” Howell says. “Every group is working different problems, and I can walk around facilitating if they get stuck.”

Activities like these don’t just help her students engage with math in new ways. They also provide variable levels of difficulty, keeping students who might be struggling with a subject involved while maintaining a level of rigor for higher-achieving students. So far, the results have been undeniable.

“Looking at last year, my students attained over 90% growth on the Florida Standards Assessments tests,” Howell says. “I attribute that to being able to effectively use small group instruction thanks to the materials I could purchase with this grant. If used effectively, it can do wonders for any classroom.”