Class wins $10,000 reboot in national contest

Riverside’s rigorous effort beats hundreds to receive $10,000 classroom makeover

Dan Pelle photo

Riverside Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Mindy Shaw wakes up the three computers in her classroom Feb. 11. Shaw says she never turns off the computers because they take 40 minutes to warm back up.

February 26, 2013 - Updated: 7:35 a.m.

Mindy Shaw never considered Riverside Elementary School an underdog to win a national classroom makeover contest – or at least if she did, the fifth-grade teacher didn’t show it.

Some doubt crept in Monday morning, however, and Shaw’s hands shook as she waited to hear whether the school won a $10,000 grand prize in the Great American Classroom Makeover contest.

Not only did Riverside Elementary School win, “we won by a landslide,” said Shaw, who put forth a never-say-die effort to win money to upgrade the school’s antiquated computer lab.

“They were in first place a majority of the contest. They had 29,152 votes, and that is a record,” said Christina Leavy, a Great American Financial Resources marketing services specialist. “Mindy put in a tremendous effort. She used every resource at her disposal.”

Shaw entered the national contest when she saw a flier in a National Education Association magazine. She wrote a 300-word essay about the school’s aged computer lab, took a picture showing a pile of computers in disrepair, and sent them to the contest.

The school landed one of 10 finalist spots out of 550 entries nationwide. The ultimate decision was up to an online vote, and the fifth-grade teacher, who is not a social networker herself, worked all the angles she could think of to encourage votes for Riverside.

Riverside – a district of about 1,700 students 35 miles north of Spokane – competed for the prize against schools in Austin, Texas; Wilmington, Del.; and Detroit.

The announcement came at 8:45 a.m. Monday over the phone, Shaw said. “The kids’ faces were precious. I looked up and their jaws were dropped open. When I hung up, they screamed and ran up and hugged me.”

Riverside’s superintendent was excited too. “It is incredible,” said Roberta Kramer.

In addition to the prize money, two anonymous donors offered the district $8,000 to purchase computers, school officials said.

“(Mindy) worked so hard at this, and I’m so proud of her,” Kramer said. “The support we’ve had from people in the community and around the world has been amazing.”

State chips in

Riverside School District officials also learned Monday the district will receive computers through a state program called Computers for Kids. The district will receive 90 computers, eight laptops and 48 monitors. Seven computers will go to Riverside Elementary and the rest of the equipment will go to Riverside High School.

“The equipment is made available through lease returns at the state Department of Enterprise Services and allocated by the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction,” said Jennifer Reynolds, an Enterprise Services spokeswoman. The program redistributes technology for use by school districts across the state.

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