Newark teachers raise funds for books

A number of Newark teachers in recent years have used social media to purchase books for their students and/or classroom libraries.

Among them are Kelley School fifth grade teacher Lisa Zalacca, who partner-teaches 26 students this year with math teacher Amy Mulhern. They appealed to family and friends on their Facebook pages for $10 donations so that each of their students could get a free book each month of this school year to read in class and take home.

This is the third year Zalacca has done this. Last year, the joint fundraising effort included math teacher Kim Chamberlain, her partner teacher.

Zalacca tweeted photos of her students announcing they’d received their first set of free books. Their first book is “Restart” by Gordon Korman about a 13-year-old bully and football team star, Chase Ambrose, who gets amnesia after a fall from the roof of his house.

“They are very excited about the books,’’ Zalacca said. “We are now on chapter six and each day they ask when we can read it.”

Combined, Zalacca and Mulhern received 20 donations, several of them more than $10. Books are purchased from Scholastic Book Clubs.

“My whole goal as a teacher is to help foster in kids a love of reading,’’ she said. “Anything I can do to make that happen is what I like to do.”

“It is nice to work with the community to help inspire kids to read,” Mulhern added.

Like Zalacca and Mulhern, Perkins second grade teacher Sara Beth Stachura has raised funds for books among family and friends for each of the last two school years.

“The kids loved it,” Stachura said. “I loved their excitement when it was book-picking day. They couldn’t wait to see what we had and when we would be able to do it again. I was able to collect a ton of bonus points over the past two years along with free books, so I had a collection of books. Not knowing what this year would bring, I didn’t ask for money. I used all of my free books to give each student a bag of books — one for September, October, November and December! When we have a new group in January, they will get a bag of books for the second half of the year.”

Perkins special education teacher Kelly Faust and partner teacher Amanda Quku, who teaches first grade, also previously did book fundraisers. Both are teaching virtually this year and looking for ideas to continue to build student book collections.

“I also have a friend who is a Lemongrass Spa consultant and she donates her commission one to two times a year from a party she hosts for our class,” Faust said. “Next month, she is donating her commission on a Facebook party to the remote taught classrooms so we can use the money to purchase Scholastic books for students.” 

In addition to Facebook fundraisers, Perkins Principal Rhonda Underhill said some of her teachers, like second grade teacher Jessica McNabb, who is teaching virtually this year, and Quku have used "Donors Choose" to add a collection of books on diversity, kindness and understanding differences to their classroom libraries.

“Our teachers are using many creative resources to put books in the hands of our kids in their classroom libraries and allow them to build their own home libraries,” Underhill said.

“Educators are always appreciative of the support they receive,” Kelley Principal Jeff Hamelinck said. “From gifts of time to supplies to providing literature to our kids, I am thankful our students and staff have supportive families and community. Our kids are thrilled at the generous gifts they receive.”

Kelley School fifth graders Reagan DeSain and Desiree Trask read “Restart” by Gordon Korman.