Small change, big impact: Operation Round Up celebrates giving $5 million to local teachers

Small change, big impact: Operation Round Up celebrates giving $5 million to local teachers

No school has been more successful utilizing Operation Round Up than Fairview Elementary. According to ORU records for the time that grant applications have been processed online, four of the top five teachers in total grants approved have come from Fairview.

So, when Operation Round Up reached the $5 million milestone this year, teachers from Fairview were invited to share their success stories at a celebration banquet on March 5, 2020, at Stone Bridge Farms.

Fairview Elementary assistant principal Caleb Elrod said in the 2019-2020 school year alone, 19 teachers at his school have received grants, totaling more than $12,000.

“For our schools to be successful it takes many people to help hold them up, and we appreciate you guys for helping support us,” Elrod said. “Our kids are the most important thing here in Cullman County, and it’s because of people like you who support them that we as teachers and administrators can do our job.”

Started locally in 1993, Operation Round Up is a combined effort funded by members of Cullman Electric Cooperative and customers of Cullman Power Board. Each month, participants have their power bill rounded up to the next whole dollar. Those pennies each month — which add up to more than $200,000 each year — are made available to teachers for classroom materials or other items that can enhance their students’ education.

Fairview 4th-grade teacher Allison Gregory told the crowd of teachers, school administrators, current and former ORU board members how Operation Round Up grants throughout her teaching career have helped her classroom collection of books grow from one shelf into a small library.

“In order for a student to be proficient in reading, they have to read just like a basketball player has to be able to shoot free throws,” Gregory explained. “They’ve got to be on the court with a ball in hand to have the opportunity. A reader must read. They must have books. They must have characters to fall in love with and adventures to go on just by turning the pages of a book.”

Alia Newell, an English teacher at Meek High School, was recognized as the teacher whose grant — $359.70 for a 40-copy classroom set of “Of Mice and Men” — pushed ORU’s giving over $5 million.

“I have been so blessed by the Operation Round Up grant opportunity, and have been able to do so much in my classroom with the funds that have been granted to me,” Newell said. “Not only have I been able to purchase classroom book sets, but I was also able to purchase a SMARTboard for my classroom, which has been a huge blessing to me. I appreciate the generosity so much.”

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