Albuquerque classrooms benefiting from extra help

ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – In the days of shrinking budgets for public schools, there’s one program that’s helping out in a big way. The Albuquerque Public Schools Education Foundation is providing funds for equipment that teachers otherwise can’t afford.

An example of how students are directly benefiting from the foundation can be seen at Sandia High School.

Ceramics students in Margie Weinstein’s class learn more than just how to sculpt pottery.

“Just to like be able to fix simple situations, she taught me a lot of that,” explained Sarah Gunther. Gunther took Weinstein’s class for two years and recently graduated.

“I always tell them the inspiration has to come from within them,” Weinstein told KRQE News 13. It’s her 16th year at Sandia High, teaching students the trade.

She teaches kids how to make jewelry and just about anything out of clay.

But like any public school, getting supplies for her class isn’t cheap. “I spend about $400 for about 1,000 pounds of clay every four to six months,” Weinstein explained.

With every student’s clay creation, it adds up. That’s where her classroom’s new tool comes in.

“This is a ‘Peter Pugger,'” Weinstein said. The machine is basically a big mixer for recycling clay.

For kids in the class and especially the school, it’s a life saver.

“It’s all about recycling,” said Weinstein.

The machine mixes wet clay with dry pieces. “This is as close to baking as I get,” the teacher laughed.

The mixer processes a new batch of clay from the old, so that kids can use it all over again. Weinstein said her class used to do a lot of the process by hand, which was labor intensive and didn’t allow for them to re-use all of it.

Weinstein said the machine saves thousands of dollars, time and work. But she was only able to purchase the expensive device through a grant from the APS Education Foundation.

“I try very had not to look at what schools don’t have, but try to look at what schools could get,” said Phill Casaus, Executive Director of the APS Education Foundation, a non-profit organization in its 20th year.

In 2015, the foundation delivered $400,000 to classrooms in APS. “We really concentrate on fine arts, we work on STEM, Science Technology Engineering and Math,” said Casaus.

“Most of our schools need that little extra support,” he added. Schools or teachers can apply for grants through the foundation. Funds are raised through the community and fund-raising events that some fine arts students participate in, by selling their own art work.

Seeing students like Gunther go on to build her own studio, is what it’s all about.

“Every kid tells a great story because every kid has a great story, and so if you play a small part in that, that’s a lot of fun,” said Casaus.

Just this month, the APS Education Foundation awarded $170,000 in grants. While APS is the 29th largest school district in the nation, the Education Foundation is ranked 7th best in the U.S. according to a national study.

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