Businesses excel in school

Gilligan’s employees Wanda Lenoir (left) and Tasha Eady watch as fourth-graders Morris Kalback and Emmie Rob measure hush-puppy mix. Gilligan’s, which adopted the Summerville Elementary School class this year, helped students with their measurements lesson.

brenda rindge

Viki Fernandez could have taught her fourth-graders about measurement by standing in the front of them and lecturing.

Or the students could have learned by figuring out what size plate is needed for 12-inch crab legs or how many quarter-cups of hush-puppy mix equal 1 1/2 cups.

At Summerville Elementary School, the latter method is becoming more and more common as local businesses bring real-life lessons to classes.

While Fernandez's fourth-graders learned practical applications for measurement from Wanda Lenoir and Tasha Eady of Gilligan's, Tara White's third-graders learned about angles and what it takes to straighten teeth from Britt Reagin of Reagin Orthodontics, and the first-graders in Leslie Jones' class learned about planning a community with SeamonWhiteside + Associates.

Students have learned about budgeting from bankers, science from doctors and sorting and counting from pharmacists.

It is all part of the school's Adopt-A-Teacher program, whose mission is to "build a lasting relationship between businesses/organizations and schools by providing skills, expertise and financial resources that spark interest and hope in our students' futures."

"It's a bit of a paradigm shift and we like that," said Lori Dibble, in her third year as principal of the 830-student school. Dibble said the idea is similar to a program at Daniel Island School, where she formerly was principal.

Typically, schools have business partners that provide financial support. The connection generally is one-sided, as the schools ask for help and the businesses give. Dibble wanted to turn that into a reciprocal relationship.

"The first thing I did when I came was take the sign off the wall," she said, referring to acknowledgement of the school's business partners that used to hang near the office. "I wanted the program to be something more. That was my vision. This school already had strong business connections, and they were so very receptive to this idea."

The program is in its third year. Dibble said not all of the classes have been adopted, and she doesn't think they ever will. That's not the point.

"We still have some businesses that prefer to give financially and that's great too," she said. "And we have some fall out, but that's OK. I appreciate businesses that can give one thing as much as the business that gives eight weeks."

The program, coordinated by school business partner liaison Shannon Raglin, has grown every year.

"We have tried to focus more on quality than quantity," said Raglin, who matches businesses and what they do with grade-specific standards when making the matches. Most of the partnerships are project-specific.

For instance, during a visit to Fernandez's class earlier this year, Lenoir and Eady divided the students into customers and wait staff. The customers were given a set amount of money to spend and had to figure out what they could order; the wait staff had to take the orders, total the bill and make change.

"We always make sure it connects to state standards," Fernandez said. "In this case, the standard was the math, but tying it to life is still better yet. They also made the connection that writing is very important. There were a lot of great connections with that."

Dibble said it's a chance to get businesses involved in the classrooms and builds "better, longer-lasting relationships" between the students and the businesses. The students benefit by seeing practical applications of their lessons. "We feel strongly that we are building relationships," she said.

Reach Brenda Rindge at 937-5713 or