A little money makes a big difference

Published September 29, 2016

Jessie Padilla’s students had the wiggles. All day long, the Ash Creek Elementary first-graders would fidget, squirm, and tip their chairs.

The wiggling wasn’t just dangerous – a few chair-tippers wound up on the floor – it was also distracting. Kids couldn’t concentrate on schoolwork because they were too focused on staying upright.

Padilla thought of a solution: Get each student an inflatable chair cushion that lets the user bounce while seated. Padilla knew that the more a person’s core is engaged, the more his or her brain is engaged.

The only problem: Padilla didn’t have enough money to buy cushions – known as wiggle seats – for all 26 of her charges.

Enter the Maps Community Foundation, the nonprofit giving arm of Maps Credit Union. Fueled by donations and a penny every time a Maps member uses his or her Free Commmunity Checking debit card, the foundation gives grants to public school teachers every year.

Padilla applied – and received – a $250 foundation grant that paid for most of the wiggle seats. The school’s parent-teacher group kicked in the rest.

Padilla said the funds made a difference in her Monmouth classroom.

“We went from having kids fall out of their chairs all the time to having kids that could stay on task,” she said. “Bouncing back and forth on the wiggle seats keeps them focused.”

This year foundation will award six $1,000 awards to help teachers like Padilla. The awards will be given to K-12 public school teachers in the mid-Willamette Valley; preference will be given to projects that promote financial literacy, college preparedness, and hands-on learning. Video applications are due Nov. 15, 2016; the public votes for their favorite Dec. 1-15.

“The grants make it possible for teachers to take their lessons to the next level and bring new programs to the classroom,” said Mitzi Smith, Maps’ community development officer. “They can be innovative without having to tap into their classroom budget.”

Padilla makes sure she tells the students that the wiggle seats were a gift from “people who care about us and want you to do well in school.”

“These people want to help you because when you do better, the whole community does better,” she tells them. “How special is it that? We live in a community (where) people who never met us want to help us!”