Ann Arbor Educational Foundation celebrates 25th Anniversary

The Ann Arbor Educational Foundation is celebrating 25 years of enhancing the excellence of the Ann Arbor Public Schools. See the slideshow from the gala, which was held April 20 at the Michigan League:

Photos by Jo Mathis, Story by Andrew Cluley

A new large corporate donation, and a call to action from a Huron High School graduate and New York Times best-selling author highlighted the 25th anniversary celebration for the Ann Arbor Educational Foundation at the University of Michigan’s League.

IMRA America has already donated about $300,000 over the last four years to the AAEF. This includes donations to keep open Pioneer High School’s Argus IMRA Planetarium, develop a computer lab at Skyline High School, and provide physics equipment. IMRA America’s Dr. Makoto Yoshida says this new $50,000 donation is targeted for Ann Arbor’s third comprehensive high school. “Fairness in the US is a keyword so why don’t we donate to the last one, Huron? I’m here today to support Huron’s DTEP,“ says Yoshida. He wants to continue supporting Ann Arbor Public Schools and hopes to partner with other area businesses in providing important funds for Ann Arbor schools. “I hope the second round becomes even bigger, than what we’ve been able to do in the last several years.”

Chair elect of the AAEF Board, Dan Schairbaum praised IMRA American for it’s continued support. “IMRA thank you again so much for your gift. That type of gift on a corporate level, IMRA has been a true leader in giving in the community. It has allowed the foundation to give grants on a level that is very, very large,” Schairbaum says. He also urged individuals in the community to provide support to our schools. “Keep in mind please, that the foundation also very much relies on the personal donations, the smaller donations, any amount frankly. That allows us to fund our annual campaign, and to fund the smaller teacher grants and school grants.”

New York Times best-selling author John U. Bacon says this type of individual giving is more important than ever before to keep our schools great. “We’re fighting a fight, let’s be honest about this, when I was in school in the 70’s and 80’s in the Ann Arbor system the state provided tremendous support for the public schools, that is no longer the case,” Bacon says. “Ann Arbor is still by the way a premier district nationwide, worldwide, but it’s not because of the state, it’s in spite of the state.”

Bacon says Ann Arbor teachers have been able to stretch small grants from the AAEF to create big results. “The creativity and the resourcefulness that you see at these stands throughout the room are incredible. You know a little bit goes a long way and from those they end up being pilot programs for the rest of the district.”

AAEF Executive Director Linh Song says the teachers that were on hand for the 25th anniversary celebration provide good examples of the work the foundation does to enhance the public schools experience. “Everything from being able to step into a lab in middle schools, seeing what a 3-D printer is like, working with robots, being a part of painting and designing a 3-D mural at Bach Elementary, to covering essential needs such as back packs for incoming kindergartners at a Title One school where over 70 percent of the children receive free or reduced lunches,” says Song.

Bacon says the grants are a way to help defend teachers that many politicians are unfairly blaming for the problems the country is currently facing. “The claim that teachers are overpaid and underworked parasites can only be made by someone who has not ever taught themselves or ever met a public schools teacher.” He says this is a particularly inaccurate description in Ann Arbor, where his teachers had incredible credentials. “I can still name every single teacher I had at public schools from kindergarten in 1970 all the way through 1982. Every single teacher, they were that good.”

Bacon says while he remembers all of his AAPS teachers, fifth grade teacher Ron Puddock stands out the most. He says across the world people can name a favorite teacher, and they always have some traits in common. “The answer is always the same, cared about us, cared about what he or she was teaching, and was not easy, had very high expectations. That is everybody’s favorite teacher, automatically,” Bacon says. “When I’m talking to corporations, Edward Jones and Ameriprise, I tell them if you’re in a leadership role and you can still recall that teacher, here’s your challenge, when you’re the leader, you’re the boss, be that teacher.”

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