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Philly’s schools need books: Teachers pitch at PhilaSoup fund-raising dinner

Philly educators met on the fifth floor of the National Museum of American Jewish History in Old City Sunday for food, booze and fundraising at the February Soup Dinner.

PhilaSoup, which fittingly touts the slogan “eat soup, fund teachers,” is a nonprofit that connects people in the Philadelphia education community and provides grants to support initiatives meant to improve students’ experiences. At the dinner, three teachers were pitching for funding for innovative classroom-level projects where the money raised at the door — along with any donations — would be split thusly: 50 percent for first place, 30 percent for second and 20 percent for third.

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Teachers and administrators from all over the city and beyond emptied crockpots of soups provided by Good Spoon Soupery — based at Front and Master Street between Fishtown and Kensington — and enjoyed free Yards Brawlers and Orangina while milling around discussing education plans and shooting the occasional dirty glance at those who work for well-funded schools.

Sixty-five attendees paid $10 each to eat soup, drink booze and get in the photo booth, and the money was awarded to these three local teachers’ projects:

Third Place: $141.80

Ashley Post, a first grade teacher at the Frankford-based First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School, was applying for the grant to support her project, “We Need Books!” which would provide books for every reading level in her classroom. Post quoted Dr. Seuss: “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

Second Place: $212.70

Gaja Stirbys, a first grade teacher at Independence Charter School at 16th and Lombard, was pretty much asking for the same thing: books to meet the reading needs of her first graders. Apparently there are only really easy and really hard books provided, leaving those in-betweeners struggling. Stirbys said she would use the grant money to buy more books in the B-F levels (kindergarten to the beginning of first grade) on the Reading A-Z assessment system so they can “see that they too are reading wizards!”

First Place: $354.50

Willa Deitch teaches at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, a nonprofit at Broad and Thompson streets that provides high school dropouts the opportunity to earn their diplomas while gaining job skills to lead students become a vital part of their community. She was asking for the grant to support her students’ “Auto-Ethongraphy” project, for which students research and analyze a significant place in their lives that has impacted the person they are today and write a letter to it, as if it were a lost friend. The money would be used to fund the binding of the ethnography books and to help put on an event for students to present their projects.

The next micro-grant dinner will be held the weekend of May 17. Keep an eye out at PhilaSoup for the time and location. To be considered for a grant, you can apply here, where there is a rolling deadline for all proposals.

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