Tuesday, September 25, 2012
By Misty Volaski
By Misty Volaski
About 200 people pledged more than $21,000 for Ojai Valley students Thursday at the Ojai Education Foundation’s annual breakfast event.
The money will go to the Ojai Unified School District in the form of grants for teachers and for technological improvements.
“K through university education is on life support,” said OUSD superintendent Hank Bangser. Thankfully, he added, the blow has been softened in Ojai by groups like the OEF.
In the last few years, OEF has donated more than $150,000 to Ojai students, who now enjoy things like interactive math programs, digital projectors, “smart” white boards, new computers and document cameras, along with more low-tech learning tools like reading books and guitars.
“The digital projectors and document cameras changed the way we taught,” Nordhoff principal Greg Bayless told the crowd.
Most recently, a $53,500 grant to Nordhoff High School paid for wireless internet connections, speaker systems, microscopes and two sets of iPads.
Bayless talked about the “infinite resources on the internet” which teachers can use. To illustrate this, he showed a video he put together with the help of the NHS media arts department.
In the video, students were shown using iPads for math and history applications. They were enthused by the “easy” and “immediate results” they got with them. One said she like that the iPads “Are hands-on. You use your fingers to interact.” Another summed it up by saying, “It’s cool to be able to use the latest technology for school.”
Social studies teacher Chris Bohney said the concept of “cool” technology makes a huge difference in the classroom. “Students are full-on engaged. That’s the best part of the iPads, is that every kid seemed engaged in the activity.”
As the video came to an end, applause exploded. “You asked what we needed,” Bayless said as the lights came back on and applause exploded through the Nordhoff High School gym. “This is what we got, genuine enthusiasm about learning. Your generosity is really transformative.”
Bayless also talked about the “amazing psychological impact” the latest OEF donation has had on the students. “They’re realizing you made sacrifices for them … They sense the community’s trust and faith in them.”
Dr. Jim Halverson agreed. “Kids feel better about themselves knowing that this community supports them.”
“These are the special moments when our community can rally together with us to support what we (OEF) do, which in turn supports our teachers, our youth and our schools,” said OEF board member Joanna Iwata.
One of the biggest supporters over the last seven years has been Upper Ojai resident and OEF board member John Whitman, who was honored at the breakfast as the group’s 2012 Education Hero. Between two standing ovations, Whitman told the crowd that his work with OEF were inspired largely by a friend, longtime Nordhoff teacher Ken Umholtz. “I asked him what would be his idea of how best to contribute to the youth of the valley … His idea was that we should come together to support the teachers. I agreed. That became my mantra.”
Visit www.ojaief.org for more information on the OEF.