Donors choose IHS teacher

By ANNE KAZMIERCZAK
Register Reporter

Iola High School math and physics teacher helps senior Adam Greenhagen with his algebra 2 homework at IHS recently. Yarnell applied for — and received — funding for textbooks through an online Web site that allows donors to choose where their money goes.

With ever-burgeoning budget shortfalls, teachers have to stretch their imaginations to discover innovative ways of getting materials for their classes. With a class of 22 and no funds in the school’s coffers for new books, Iola High School’s math and physics teacher Scot Yarnell got creative.
He applied for funding through DonorsChoose.org, a Web site dedicated to teachers’ individual class projects and needs. The site highlights classrooms in need with rural, poverty-stricken or college-bound students. Contributors select the school, region or project they wish their funds to go to.
In January, Yarnell asked for money to purchase the latest edition of a physics text he uses for his college-bound students. The books are the same as those used at Pittsburg State University, he said. Their price tag was $156 each.
Yarnell asked for $800, the maximum allowed for a first-time applicant. The request sat for a while, but then, in May, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation donated half the requested amount. U.S. Cellular and an anonymous donor contributed the remainder of the funds, he said.
Yarnell received his textbooks in August: five shiny new editions of Douglas C. Giancoli’s “Physics: Principles With Applications.”
He completed his list by purchasing an older edition through Half.com, a discount Web vendor. Those books cost about $9 each, plus shipping, Yarnell said. The school reimbursed him for that purchase.

YARNELL first learned of DonorsChoose from what seemed an unlikely source — his cell phone company.
Turns out Cellular One, which Yarnell uses for his service, contributes $100,000 to the site every year.
“U.S. Cellular gets to pinpoint what areas they want” to support, Yarnell said. “They go where they have everybody in their coverage area.”
“I was shocked that I got it, and first thing off the bat, too,” he said of his application.
He has since solicited — and received — funds for Students Against Destructive Decisions’ anti-tobacco campaign through Tobacco Free Kansas. Yarnell is the group’s sponsor.
There are requirements once a teacher receives funding from any grant, Yarnell said. Records must be kept on how the money is used. Reporting back to the grantor is a must.
DonorsChoose requires a “thank you packet” of “five to six letters written by the students,” and photographs of students using equipment purchased, he said. He is now in the final stages of completing that packet. Once approved, he’ll be eligible to apply for more grants from the site.
“The more projects you get funded, the more funding you can ask for,” Yarnell said of DonorsChoose.
One dream he has is for a physics lab. “It’s all theoretical without a lab,” he said.

THE FORMER engineer knows labs.
Yarnell graduated from PSU in 2001 with bachelor degrees in physics, chemistry and plastics engineering.
He worked for a few years in Ohio as a materials engineer before his father, Raymond Yarnell, suffered a heart attack in 2004. With his father incapacitated, Yarnell returned home to Buffalo to run the family farm. But his true interest lie in teaching.
“I thought about education when I was in my last year of my bachelor’s degree, but decided I needed a break from college. After one year working as an engineer, I started taking classes to become a teacher,” Yarnell said.
He began those studies at Indiana University, completed them at PSU in 2005, then went on to receive a master’s in education administration from Emporia State University in 2009.
Yarnell has taught in Iola schools the past five years, two at Iola Middle School and the last three at IHS.
“Being an educator is not as easy as many believe,” Yarnell said. “While in college, I studied advanced physics and chemistry but that’s nothing compared to figuring out a teenage student.”
But, it may have helped him think out of the box to seek alternate funding. With budget cuts of more than $425,000 proposed, Yarnell said, “DonorsChoose would definitely be something for teachers here to look at, especially this year.”
A new grant year begins Jan. 1, he said.