5:22 p.m. PDT October 8, 2015
(Photo: Courtesy of California Casualty Management Company)
In third grade, Jennifer Capener was two years advanced in math, but two years behind in reading.
“You know you’re different when you can’t read in third grade,” she said.
But instead of letting this stop her, she became a teacher to help others who learn at a different pace.
“(My experience) makes (me) keenly aware of what students need,” she said. “It makes (me) aware and sensitive to their struggles.”
And last week, Capener was honored for helping students when she received a $2,500 academic award from California Casualty Management Co.
Capener will now have the resources she needs to further help the young children at Silver Crest Elementary School.
“I couldn’t believe it when they called my name, but I am thrilled I can help even more students,” she said after a surprise announcement at a recent school assembly. She shed a few tears of joy.
Although she has taught for 13 years, this is Capener’s first year at the school about seven miles south of Silverton.
With the money, Capener, 47, plans to buy books for what she calls a “level reading room,” a room where students of all grades and reading levels will have material suited for them.
“I struggled in school and was a nonreader when I was in third grade, so I have a passion for reaching kids like me who are having the same trouble,” she said.
Capener added that every student in the small K-8 school will benefit from the books the award will enable the school to buy.
The room will take the place of an existing storage room, which currently houses old and no longer usable books.
She said they were already working on creating the room before she received the award, but they needed more money to make it happen.
“(The award) couldn’t have come at a better time,” she said.
Capener said she will be able to get additional items with the money as well because the award was much more than she anticipated. She added that she wants to stretch the money as much as possible.
She will use more than 50 percent for the level reading room, but she hopes to use some of the funds to also replace battered book boxes, buy new reading headphones and provide snacks and other basic items for her students.
Capener also wants to keep some money in reserve so she can provide emergency materials when needed, like being able to help a child in need buy a new pair of shoes.
She used to work for a 100 percent low-income student school, which received a fair amount of federal funding to cover gaps in resources. But because Silver Crest does not receive as much funding, teachers have to fill some of those gaps themselves.
The $2,500 award Capener received was created to help educators who often use their own funds to purchase classroom and other instructional material.
Capener estimated that she spent $500 of her own money this year on her classroom needs. Because of this, she is always applying for awards and grants to make sure everything is covered.
For educators who might be hesitant to enter, Capener said, “Apply for everything you can. There are many companies and foundations who want to support education and believe in seeing kids succeed just like California Casualty.”
This was the eighth academic award given by California Casualty since the program was created in 2012.
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