East Garner Elementary School principal Kimberly Burton has a check in her office. It’s about 1 foot tall and 2 feet wide, and has $2,592.17 printed in white numerals against an orange background on a glossy finish.
East Garner earned one of 37 cash prizes given nationwide by retail chain Big Lots to winners of a contest for schools in need of financial support.
“I’m still flying on cloud 59,” an ecstatic Burton said of the award, initially announced on Aug. 5. “This is huge for our school community.”
Schools put together a video and a brief essay explaining why they should win and what the grant would do. Local Big Lots locations also collected donations for the 187 schools that entered the contest.
East Garner received one of 30 third-place prizes of $2,000 along with in-store donations. The company also awarded a $20,000 grand prize, two $10,000 first prizes and four $5,000 second prizes. The check was presented at the Garner Big Lots location in what Burton described as a “Publisher’s Clearinghouse-style presentation” on Aug. 10.
Lake Myra Elementary in eastern Wake County also won a third-place prize, the only other Triangle winner.
East Garner’s video emphasized the need to expand students’ access to technology, and Burton said the grant will do just that. In particular, she said the school is targeting mobile carts that can easily transport and charge items like laptops, iPads, document cameras and LCD projectors.
Burton said the carts will cut down on transport, set-up and take-down time that otherwise might take up teaching time and discourage use.
“If you want digital tools to be part of our everyday process, you need a usability factor,” Burton said. “It will allow consistent integration of the digital tool. You can have a building full of stuff, but if you are not using it, it will not impact instruction.”
For Burton, technology is pivotal in preparing students for 21st-century colleges and workforce. She said the school works to use technology in groups, getting students to communicate, plan and work together to solve problems. In addition to training students on how to use important technology, she said the natural curiosity and amusement that technology breeds engages students.
“The motivation piece alone: we know children like to use technology, and if we can motivate children, that’s where we are going to get the bang for our buck,” Burton said. “We are so grateful for the amount we received, because it takes us one step closer to being 21st-century ready.”