East Ridge Elementary teacher wins $700 from University of Tennessee to fund DonorsChoose projects
Posted on 09/23/2020
Photo: Kali O'Neal holds the big check presented to her by the College Football Playoff Foundation through their Extra Yard for Teachers programKali O'Neal, an exceptional education teacher at East Ridge Elementary, was presented with a $700 check recently from the University of Tennessee and the College Football Playoff Foundation as part of their Extra Yard for Teachers project. The donation is enough to completely fund two of O'Neal's DonorsChoose projects that will support new additions to her sensory area in her special education classroom. The announcement was made at Neyland Stadium in Knoxville and recorded to share with O'Neal and the students and staff at East Ridge Elementary. The recording showed a congratulatory message to Mrs. O'Neal and her class on the large message board at the stadium.

We are excited for Mrs. O'Neal and the students that this will benefit, said Juan Moreno, principal at East Ridge Elementary. "It another example of our teachers going the extra yard to make sure our students' needs are addressed."

In O'Neal's classroom, her students work on communication through pictures, gestures, and eye gazes. The additions to her classroom through the "Let's Explore the Sensory World" project on DonorsChoose will give students updated opportunities to explore their sensory world through lights, textures, and soft sounds. The children will also have a variety of options to sit on to enhance the experience.

"These items will help my students stay calm and be certain that they have a safe and comfortable place to go," said O'Neal. "The project will also give them a variety of settings to help them know their personal space."

The funds will also fully fund the At Home COVID-19 Learning Material project through DonorsChoose for O'Neal's class. The materials will provide journals, scissors, and manipulative items the teacher can send home for children to use in at-home virtual hands-on learning when school is closed.

"We do a modified curriculum and need a lot of hands-on materials because they do not use paper and pencil tasks," added O'Neal. "Having materials and resources that can be sent home to help families work on student goals is very beneficial. The students will be able to work on building sight words, reading, letter tracing, sight word writing, sorting by size, and completing basic addition sentences at home."

Photo: Kali O'Neal holds the big check presented to her by the College Football Playoff Foundation through their Extra Yard for Teachers program.