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Rotary donation outfits Walker Elementary School with 'smart boards'

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Ashland Rotary members, from left, Jim Batzer, Lynn Thompson, Barbara Allen and Ashland School District Superintendent Jay Hummel, stand behind Walker Elementary School first-graders, from left, Patrick Burros, Ethan Dille, Sophia Anderson, Vera Lindsay and Mikaela Paisons, as Principal Patty Michiels shows students a check donated by the Ashland Rotary that enabled the school to purchase smart boards for each classroom. Julia Moore / Daily TidingsJulia Moore
 Posted: 2:00 AM February 05, 2014

Every classroom in Walker Elementary School is now equipped with electronic "smart boards" for teacher instruction, thanks to donations from the Ashland Rotary Club.

The Rotary's "Adopt Walker School" program has raised about $19,000 for the school, which has a high level of low-income students.

"The teachers are more than thrilled," said Rotarian Jim Batzer, who began volunteering in the school with his wife and fellow Rotarian, Barbara Allen, last year.

Batzer said he saw that the school and its students could use extra financial help, so he appealed to the teachers, asking them to make a list of needs for their students.

"We really got to know the teachers and felt drawn to the kids," said Batzer. "They're in poverty and they're struggling."

The school had used grant money a few years ago to buy smart boards — electronic chalkboards that can easily pull information from the Internet for use during instruction — but only had the money for seven of the school's 13 classrooms.

This year the Rotary donated $14,200 to the school, enough to equip the remaining classrooms with smart boards.

"Imagine an iPad, but it's big and on the wall," said Walker Principal Patty Michiels. "It's like a PowerPoint presentation that's interactive."

Teachers can easily pull information from the Internet and present it to an entire classroom, she said.

Michiels said the Rotary's contribution was an important gift for the school, where 60 percent of families qualify for free or reduced lunch for students — a measurement used to estimate poverty among families.

"We definitely could use the resources," she said. "It's a gift for the Rotary to partner with us."

Michiels said she was pleased that Rotary members, who often direct their philanthropy to international causes, were choosing to focus on a local school.

"It's a great gift to us. They realized what a wonderful school this is," she said.

Rotary members have volunteered in every classroom at the school, and Michiels has invited Rotarians who were former science or history professionals into classrooms to speak to students.

Michiels met with Rotary members Friday for a photo opportunity and a chance to show them the new smart boards.

"The kids can interact with all this technology," said Batzer. "It really enhances the learning experience."

Michiels said schools are increasingly taking a more technological approach in the classroom.

"It's all about engagement," she said.

Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at

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