Service project aims to support new teachers

By Kristin Miller

millerkr@mnstate.edu

As many new teachers know, the process of setting up a first-time classroom can be daunting, not to mention costly.

With that in mind, an education student at MSUM has created a unique service project to help address this problem. She wants to give new teachers a little help as they embark on their new careers, and she’s calling on the campus community for help.

Allisen Merrill, senior communications arts and literature education major, has created a book drive and donation project which aims to help defray these costs. She’s hoping to collect at least 200 books and has set up a crowdsourcing page to collect monetary donations.

The idea for the project, Merrill said, came from cleaning off her own children’s bookshelf, and realizing that all the books they didn’t read anymore could be put to better use.

“I know I was helping someone else,” Merrill said of the decision to donate. “I wanted to make it bigger.”

That lead her to her COMM 415 class, Teaching Methods: Communications Studies. One component of the class is a service-learning project, and while other students chose the options of collecting box tops or classroom service hours with current teachers, Merrill was thinking a little bigger.

“It’s been on my mind for a while,” she said. “The classroom library is one of the biggest costs.”

She said new teachers are often faced with the added expense of supplying their classroom and building their in-class libraries. This is often in addition to paying back student loans and dealing with the low salaries that new teachers frequently receive.

“Students have a choice,” Merrill said of teachers having classroom libraries. “They promote literacy.”

With those benefits in mind, she decided to begin taking donations of books for students from preschool to 12th grade. The books will be distributed to MSUM education grads who will be setting up their own classrooms.

Merrill partnered with classmate Sam Link when she realized how much time the project would demand. The pair has worked together to set up a page on gofundme.com to collect donations which will be used to purchase books from thrift and second-hand stores. They’ve also been promoting their project through social media and word of mouth to help generate support.

Pending the project’s success, Merrill said they hope to see it become an annual event. Books will be distributed at the end of a school year in a sort of “book-buy night.” While they won’t be charging for the books, new teachers can come and “shop” the donations.

“They can come and pick what they want in their library,” Merrill said.

She added that the next step in collecting donations is to set up a table in the CMU for students to stop by and drop  off unwanted books. Planned times for drop-offs in the CMU are this Wenesday, and Mar. 3, 6 and 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Mar. 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. If students can’t make it out to donate at these times, Merrill encourages them to get in touch with her via email at merrillal@mnstate.edu. More information and updates can be found on the Facebook event page “Book Roundup!”

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