Saturday, May 8: 

Do teachers ever fully retire? If you were to ask these teachers they would say no! RAFT relies heavily on volunteers to help make our resources accessible to the education community at low cost. On average around 6,000 volunteers support RAFT each year.  

Some of RAFT’s most dedicated volunteers are retired teachers. Even though these volunteers are technically retired from teaching, they know that students and their fellow educators continue to need support. They have answered the call and continue to serve the education community and its growing needs.

RAFT was honored to recognize these teachers for their service not only to RAFT but to the education community.

California Retired Teachers Association Area 5 Division 6

For years now, the California Retired Teachers Association (CRTA) Area 5 Division 6 has been volunteering at RAFT. Prior to the pandemic, the group which is made up of all former teachers, would come onsite at RAFT and spend the day helping to build RAFT STEAM Project Kits. As shelter in place started and distance learning kicked off, the CRTA still wanted to support students and educators. Since May 2020, CRTA has been picking up boxes weekly to help RAFT with various projects to keep our resources available. Caroline and LaVonne, RAFT staff members, share what it is like working with the group:

“The most obvious aspect about CTRA is their dedication. I am a new RAFT staff member and from my brief time working with the group, it is obvious how dedicated they are to the education community. Since shelter in place has started, the group has been coming to RAFT each week to pick up materials to assemble our STEAM Project Kits at home. This has been a HUGE help for RAFT and shows how passionate the team members are to our educators and students.” Caroline Evans, volunteer & event coordinator

“Throughout my years at RAFT, I’ve always been impressed with the commitment and hard work of our Retired Teacher Volunteer Group. They are committed to their community of fellow teachers, and they always come in ready to work hard and help RAFT. I know whenever they are coming in, we’ll be working twice as hard to keep with them.” LaVonne Simmons, Volunteer Specialist

Thank you CTRA for your dedication to the education community!

Jean Suzuki

One cannot talk about RAFT volunteers without mentioning Jean Suzuki. Jean, and her husband Wayne, have been instrumental in the formation of RAFT! From the beginning, Jean and Wayne helped RAFT grow into the organization it is today.

Jean, after retiring as a math teacher, met Mary Simon (RAFT Founder) and started to volunteer at RAFT. She used her teaching skills and led workshops at RAFT, which were very popular. Jean also helped make RAFT’s Educator Workroom (formerly known as the Green Room) what it is today by taking care of the Ellison dies, laminate rolls and restoring the colored card stock shelf. Mary Simon describes Jean’s impact as “providing caring service to our teachers, going above and beyond for them and living (RAFT’S) core value of heroic customer service”. To read more about Jean and Wayne’s impact at RAFT, please read our blog post Thanking Our Volunteers: Jean and Wayne.

Thank you Jean for your service to RAFT, educators and students!

“Improv with Your Students”, Free Virtual Teacher Workshop with Tenaya Conklin

If you’d like to help RAFT continue to support our educators, please consider making a donation at the link below. Thank you!

Friday, May 7: 

RAFT’s STEAM Teachers of the Year Awards recognize outstanding pre-K-12 teachers in the Bay Area who incorporate effective hands-on learning and/or maker education into their curriculum. This year, RAFT will recognize five teachers for their accomplishments in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math (STEAM) fields. The winners will be recognized at our upcoming annual fundraiser and receive a series of prizes including a RAFT membership for one year. Nominations are due by Friday August 13, 2021. You can nominate an outstanding teacher at the following link. Thank you for your participation!

2020 STEAM Teachers of the Year

Congratulations to all of our 2020 STEAM Teachers of the Year! Thank you for all you do for our students.

RAFT 2020 STEAM Teachers of the Year

  1. Meredith Jones, Mission Park Elementary
  2. Lisa Ernst, San Francisco Unified School District
  3. Lisa Sawires, Walt Disney Elementary
  4. Kimberly Pratt, St. Leo the Great School
  5. Kim Lawrence, Bollinger Canyon Elementary

To learn more about our 2020 STEAM Teachers of the Year and hear their students share the impact the teachers had on their learning, watch our video below:

“Improv with Your Students”, Free Virtual Teacher Workshop with Tenaya Conklin

If you’d like to help RAFT continue to support our educators, please consider making a donation at the link below. Thank you!

Thursday, May 6: 

“Hands-on Learning Beyond the Classroom” with Jeff Fox, Kit Engineer at RAFT

Today RAFT is featuring a titan of technology, Jeff Fox, who shares his admiration for teachers and how hands-on learning has influenced his incredible career. Jeff has over 35 years of experience in the tech industry, including working at Intel for over 20 years and being an Research Fellow at MIT. In addition to his accomplishments in his field, Jeff continues to give back to the community by volunteering for a variety of educational causes, and RAFT is lucky enough to have him as our Kit Engineer. In this role, Jeff brings his attention to detail and boundless curiosity to RAFT’s kits and is always asking how students and educators can get the most out of these activities. Here, Jeff shares how hands-on learning impacted his career and the incredible ways teachers inspire joy and discovery in their students.

Have you heard of Found Engineering? Found Engineering is the process of discovering or inventing new ways to repurpose “found” items into hands-on learning activities. Learn more:

“Improv with Your Students”, Free Virtual Teacher Workshop with Tenaya Conklin

If you’d like to help RAFT continue to support our educators, please consider making a donation at the link below. Thank you!

Wednesday, May 5: 

“The Education Space Today & Resiliency of Teachers”, Jason Sorich, EdTech Administrator of Alum Rock School District

As RAFT celebrates Teacher Appreciation Week, we want to recognize how teachers have shifted their teaching formats completely to accommodate distance learning formats. With this shift, teachers were at the forefront of blending technology with traditional teaching styles in ways that had never been done before. For many teachers, this was the first time they interacted with this type of technology, while others were more familiar with the technology but had to use it in a completely different way. Either way, these educators were expected to make this shift literally overnight in many cases, and they served as advisors and support for students and their families as we all began to work, and learn, from home. 

One educator that was intimately involved with this process is Jason Sorich of Alum Rock School District. Jason has worked in the district for twenty years and currently serves as the Ed Tech Administrator, overseeing the professional learning and technology plans for the entire district. In an interview with RAFT, Jason shared what he saw as teachers shifted to distance learning and how eager they are to continue to improve their teaching as they re-enter the classroom and move onto the next phase of learning.

As the Education Technology Administrator, Jason’s primary responsibility is everything in that realm of Educational Technology, from supporting teachers to administrators to even the district vision for what education integration looks like. Jason shared, “When I think of Education Technology I think of all the ways teachers can utilize online and blended learning programs to enhance what’s happening in their teaching hemisphere.” These technologies can include specific hardware such as tablets and clickers, or more comprehensive software such as Learning Management Systems. Over the past year, teachers, students, and families have become fluent in video conferencing, collaborating digitally on tools like Google Docs, and remotely accessing the learning space. 

With the use of these technologies over the last year, one could think we’ve evolved beyond the typical learning environment and techniques we saw before the pandemic. Jason doesn’t believe this though. When asked how hands-on learning fits into the new, digital classroom, he stated, “The need for hands-on learning isn’t going anywhere. Both hands-on and technology can be blended together and compliment each other in the education experience. Students are always going to need that experiential piece to manipulate their learning and build understanding in that way.” However, this experiential learning isn’t just for students, teachers are also continuing to learn and grow as they support our students.

Jason also oversees the professional development of the district, and what he has seen over the past year is pretty surprising given all the disruption and challenge we’ve all faced. “We’ve seen those attendance numbers in our professional development trainings skyrocket. That’s to teachers’ credit that they recognize this is a little different, or a lot different I should say, and they’re not using it as an excuse. They’re taking distance learning as an opportunity to learn more, and I think all that learning is going to manifest in something amazing.” RAFT has been part of these professional development trainings and works closely with Jason and ARUSD to ensure teachers are supported both in their teaching as well as their own learning. 

While these opportunities to learn and change have been positive, there’s still so many unknowns for our educators as we move into the next phase of learning. As Jason put it there’s still the element of “we don’t know what we don’t know yet.” The past year hasn’t just had implications for the education community in the day-to-day learning, but there will also be a need to address larger issues. Jason explained: “What we’ve found this year is that there are a lot of things that will have to be different moving forward. How are we going to create a space that is emotionally responsive? How are we dealing with issues of anxiety? How do we have a trauma response informed practice? How are we creating spaces that deal with racial equity? There are so many things that have surfaced during this time that we need to be responsive to in innovative ways as we move into the next phase of learning.” These are daunting questions that will not be answered overnight. Our education community will need support from all of us as we grapple with what this past year taught us and enter the next phase of learning.

As we move into the next phase of learning, one thing that is certain is teachers’ resilience. RAFT understands how hard educators have been working during this time and their flexibility in navigating the next steps. Jason shared what he respects most about teachers, “The thing I respect most about teachers is their resilience. Teachers and educators are working overtime, beyond overtime in support and in service of students. So I think that appreciation can’t be said loud enough and often enough. Alum Rock, like many other districts, didn’t have a ramp-up time for distance learning. We got the call we’re going to distance learning on Friday and we were live on Monday. So their flexibility and resilience simply can’t be overstated.” 

RAFT would like to join Jason in celebrating our resilient teachers and educators. Thank you for always going above and beyond for our students! 

“Laser Cutter Basics”, Free Virtual Teacher Workshop with Eric Welker:

If you’d like to help RAFT continue to support our educators, please consider making a donation at the link below. Thank you!

Tuesday, May 4: 

“Year of Lost Learning? Not So Fast”, Andrea Whittaker, Founder & Consultant of Career Continuum Consultants

Today, RAFT is featuring Andrea Whittaker of Career Continuum Consultants and her take on this year of distance learning. Andrea has over twenty years of experience in teacher development and assessment, including serving as Professor Emeritus at San Jose State and the Director of Teacher Performance Assessment at Stanford University. Through the years, she has seen firsthand how hands-on learning can help educators and students in the classroom. Andrea also shares how this last year has been one of tremendous learning for educators and students and how our community and RAFT can help move forward into the next phase of learning. 

Teacher Appreciation Gift with purchase in our store on today! Book your appointment now!

“Teacher Maker Night”, Free Virtual Teacher Workshop with Qi Diaz. The first 20 teachers to sign up will get a free Makerspace-in-a-Box kit available for pick-up in our RAFT store!

If you’d like to help RAFT continue to support our educators, please consider making a donation at the link below. Thank you!

Monday, May 3:

Our amazing educators work hard every day to inspire joy in learning while unlocking student potential. During this difficult year, they have gone above and beyond for their students; but they need your help. RAFT member Amy, an educator at a San Jose preschool, is an example of one of these extraordinary educators: “I buy the supplies I need to send monthly learning kits to accompany my Zoom lessons. Our school is in peril of closing, had to lay off 70% of our staff, and I have had to pay out of pocket for everything I need… without RAFT, I wouldn’t be able to give my students the education they deserve. The families have been very appreciative of the learning kits, and it opened their eyes to the potential their child has.” (Amy S.)

RAFT is proud to support educators like Amy.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week (May 3-7) this year, we hope that you join RAFT in supporting our educators and the education community! Your support will ensure we are able to answer the changing needs of our education community as schools begin to return to on-campus learning.

This week, RAFT will be featuring videos about what teachers face today and resources for educators.

  • Monday, May 3: Kick-Off of Teacher Appreciation Week
  • Tuesday, May 4: 
    • “Year of Lost Learning? Not So Fast” with Andrea Whittaker, Founder & Consultant of Career Continuum Consultants
    • Teacher Appreciation Gift with purchase in our store on Tuesday! Book your appointment now!
    • Free Virtual Teacher Workshop: “Teacher Maker Night” with Qi Diaz. The first 20 teachers to sign up will get a free Makerspace-in-a-Box kit available for pick-up in our RAFT store!
  • Wednesday, May 5:  
    • “The Education Space Today & Resiliency of Teachers” with Jason Sorich, EdTech Administrator with Alum Rock School District
    • Free Virtual Teacher Workshop: “Laser Cutter Basics” with Eric Welker
  • Thursday, May 6: 
    • “Hands-on Learning Beyond the Classroom” with Jeff Fox, Kit Engineer at RAFT
    • Free Virtual Teacher Workshop: “Improv with Your Students” with Tenaya Conklin

We hope you will consider donating to RAFT to support our work and make a difference for our educators and students during Teacher Appreciation Week. Check back at this page throughout the week for some insights into what teachers are facing today and resources available to show them our appreciation.