Google’s got good news, and cash, for Snohomish County teachers

EVERETT — Brenda Ehrhardt is no stranger to funding challenges in public schools.

But Ehrhardt, the music teacher at Sunnyside Elementary School in Marysville for the past nine years, got a bit of good news in an email Monday: The Internet giant Google is giving her $2,179.59 so she can buy choral risers for student concerts.

“I just started yelling, ‘Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh!’” Ehrhardt said.

“I just didn’t think that much money would be possible. Literally I was just jumping up and down.”

Ehrhardt is one of 34 teachers in Snohomish County — and one of nearly 300 in the Puget Sound region — who woke up Monday morning to learn that they’d be receiving a check from Google’s charitable arm, Google.org.

The teachers had posted their needs on DonorsChoose.org, a website that enables teachers to seek donations for specific projects to benefit students.

“Education is really important to us and we thought, ‘What better way than to support our hometown heroes who make it happen every day in classrooms?’” said Darcy Nothnagle, a Google public affairs manager.

Noting that Google has 1,400 employees in the Puget Sound region, Nothnagle added that “it’s a great way for our local offices to partner with local teachers, too, to say, ‘Thank you.’”

Google’s $338,000 donation has provided money for all teacher projects in Snohomish, King and Pierce counties that were listed on DonorsChoose.

In Snohomish County, that amounted to $31,832.04 to fully fund or complete the funding of 45 projects listed by 34 teachers.

Education programs are a focus of Google’s charitable efforts. The company has worked with DonorsChoose to provide new math and science materials to schools across the country and to get more girls involved computer science.

Google also made similar donations in other communities where the company has a presence — in Austin, Texas, Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area, Nothnagle said.

Among the purchases that Google funded in Washington are laptops for classes at Whittier Elementary School in Everett, tablet computers for math classes at Arlington High School, geography books for a Montessori K-2 class at Maltby Elementary School in Snohomish, and yoga mats for a class of kindergarteners with developmental disabilities at Chase Lake Elementary School in Edmonds.

“On average, we know that teachers spend more than $500 of their own money each year for classroom supplies,” Nothnagle said.

Ehrhardt knows all about that.

“I buy all the music for our performance, I’ve bought small instruments, all my teaching materials I have bought,” she said.

“I’ve also been teaching for 27 years, so I’ve been building things up,” she added.

Ehrhardt used DonorsChoose for the first time this summer when she heard that the African Children’s Choir was touring in the region. Over the course of about three weeks, she raised $1,230 from 57 small donors to get the group to make a stop at Sunnyside, which will happen Sept 30.

Hoping to repeat the experience, Ehrhardt put up a new request for donors for the choral risers in mid-August.

Every grade level in Sunnyside puts on a choral concert in the school year, she said, but the students have had to stand on the floor of the gym.

“The parents can’t see their children,” she said.

Before Monday, two donors had contributed $31.41 toward the $2,211 project.

“I’m just so happy,” Ehrhardt said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165 or cwinters@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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