Online project helps Thurston teacher gain new reading area

Pattengill teacher also gets T-shirt project funded

By Casey Hans
AAPSNews Service

Allison Zolad, a first-grade teacher at Thurston Elementary School, has reached her goal of getting a bookshelf and cozy reading rug for her classroom, thanks to a project she posted on

Thurston reading area
First-graders show off their new rug, shelves and reading area, which their teacher got thanks to a

Zolad said she first found out about when she taught at a Detroit charter school last year. This year, she was able to organize her project, post it, and get community support for more than $1,000 in donations and gift certificates that were put toward the project.

A recent donation of such certificates from the Ann Arbor District Library came after the library purchased 13 copies of the movie “Waiting for Superman” for their collection and got the gift certificates.

“As a result of our normal purchase of materials for our collection,  AADL was happily surprised to receive several gift cards from DonorsChoose,” said library spokesman Tim Grimes. “Since these gift cards … are meant, not for public  libraries, but for local schools, AADL was pleased to pass the gift cards on to Thurston Elementary School .” Grimes said Thurston was the one public school in the Ann Arbor district participating in DonorsChoose at the time of the donation.

Zolad said the remainder of the money came from some parents, some Thurston alumni and even some strangers who found the project online and donated.

How the program works, is that teachers can put together a wish list, go to the site and shop to determine what they want and how much it will cost and post the project to begin publicizing it.  The projects are posted for six months; if the dollar goal is not reached, allows the organizer to do a lesser project. Zolad said it took her about 45 minutes to put her project together and post it.

The website focuses on public school classrooms. Interested teachers can set up an account once their school is listed, and then sign up to get points which can go to projects. Zolad said other teachers are asking for things such as field trips and tech supplies.

Zolad said once her goal was reached, shipped the rug and bookcases directly to her classroom. “The kids were so excited when we got it,” she said. “They love the carpet, especially.”

Zolad also purchased durable metal bookcases to replace the older, wooden ones that were taped together and falling apart. “I believe that providing a large selection of books is the best way to encourage students to read,” she said in her explanation online.

With the new items, a rug with primary colors, numbers and letters is the centerpiece of the classroom, surrounded by bookshelves. The classroom library is overflowing with books, many of which Zolad has collected over the past five years. She said she has about 1,600 student books for students.

The 25 students in Zolad’s class are diverse, representing a wide range of cultures and speak five different languages. She explains that students are just grasping letter-sound relationships and reading beginning chapter books.

“The kids here are just to excited about school,” she said. “At this young age, they learn so quickly – I’ve seen a lot of measurable progress.”

Zolad, 24, is a Farmington-area native. She became interested in teaching while working at the Farmington YMCA as a teenager and went on to study education in college.

Pattengill T-shirt project
Teacher Sue Beech of Pattengill Elementary School has also had an up-cycling T-shirt project funded through The site purchased paint, beads, glue, scissors and Beech purchased T-shirts from Salvation Army. Her students took the used shirts and decorated them and they now wear their new glitzy shirts to school, she said. (photos courtesy, Sue Beech)
Pattengill T-shirts
Sue Beech's class and their T-shirts.

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