Outstanding Educator Claire Ratfield: Creating a 21st Century Classroom through Fundraising

With school budgets becoming increasingly tight many educators have had to think of creative ways to modernize their classrooms. Lincoln Elementary 6th grade teacher, Claire Ratfield, has discovered with creative ways to crowd-fund modern technology in the classroom.

Claire began her career in education at Lincoln Middle School in Corona Del Mar, CA in 1969. In 1998 Johns Hopkins University identified her as an exemplary teacher for gifted students. Just after that she became the first public school National Board Certified teacher in Orange County and then the first double National Board Certified teacher for both elementary and middle childhood education in the nation. This experience encouraged Claire to start a foundation (CITE) to fund costs for teachers to become Nationally Board Certified. This foundation sparked Claire’s interest in fundraising for education.

Claire has always been driven by the power of technology and enjoyed seeing her students spend recess and lunch creating massive structures in Minecraft. She was stunned at the creativity and innovation of the buildings and cities they created. That year, the district invited her to a MinecraftEDU STEAM class offered by the Orange County Department of Education. This experience showed her the power of gamification in engaging students.

The next year, she wrote an engineering grant through Donors Choose and Chevron. Her proposal stated that students would build structures including sustainable houses of the future within different biomes. Through this grant she was awarded 3 state of the art desktop computers. She also reached out to a few parents to donate enough funds for 36 MinecraftEDU licenses and 3 teacher servers.

Although Claire was aware of crowdfunding she decided to do something different and developed the idea of “Claire Funding” within her network of friends. “I created two funding streams: One as a tax write-off through the district that funds technology or arts related to staff development and the other to my DBA, ‘Claire Ratfield Educational Services’ which funds my classroom needs. The near $20,000  I’ve raised is equally divided between my class and my school . This has allowed me to buy my own set of one-on-ones, robotics, and 3 iPads. It also includes 13 computers with a minimum of 4GB of memory dedicated to MinecraftEDU rotation.”

This year, Claire plans to ditch the textbook and run a paperless classroom through Google Classroom. Her fundraising has allowed her to completely modernize her classroom and has allowed her to provide her students with an engaging learning experience.

For teachers that are thinking about getting into fundraising, Claire recommends Donors Choose as one of the best resources for teachers seeking a couple thousand dollars for technology. Other sites teachers should check out include: Indiegogo, Go Fund Me, and Kickstarter. For teachers that are looking to fundraise within their groups of friends, here is a letter Claire has successfully sent out in the past.

If you want to learn more about Claire Ratfield and her classroom fundraising, check out her website. You’ll be able to see a creative Thank You video she made for her donors, resources for teachers looking to integrate technology in the classroom, as well as current projects for which she is seeking funding.

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