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With virtual learning in place for the beginning of the school year at Lyndale Elementary, teachers had to come up with creative ways to keep students engaged such as the use of individual whiteboards for each student.

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School Supplies for Mrs. Hartje

After an unprecedented finish to the 2019 – 2020 school year due to COVID-19, many teachers have spent their summers preparing for the upcoming year. As a first-year teacher at Cavalier Public School with a baby on the way, Natalie Hartje found herself busy in more ways than one as she prepped her kindergarten classroom for her students and their home for the arrival of the new addition to their family.

Coming in as a new teacher meant Natalie didn’t have very many supplies. She was starting fresh and would need to buy the majority of what she would need for the school year. This included things such as books, craft materials, classroom decorations, and cleaning supplies; everything she would need to make her classroom engaging and safe.

Kindergarten teacher Natalie Hartje presented with check for classroom supplies.
With a little help, Mrs. Hartje was ready to kick-start her first year of teaching by gearing up her classroom for her students.

In the midst of tracking down everything she needed, Natalie caught wind of our Wishing Well program and submitted her story. Any help she could get would go a long way in helping her students.

Not long after, Natalie was told to meet her sister Miriam at the nearest Choice Bank location in Walhalla, ND. With the support of several other team members, Miriam presented a $500 check to Natalie to go towards funding her remaining classroom supplies.

Since then, Natalie was able to acquire all the supplies she needed to start the school year and has been enjoying all the rewards and challenges of her first year of teaching.

Setting Up Minneapolis First Graders for Success

When Minneapolis schools suddenly shifted to virtual learning back in the spring, Karen Larson, a first-grade teacher at Lyndale Elementary School did what teachers do best—she adapted.

Karen immediately went out and bought supplies for each of her students, delivering them to her students’ homes along with treats, journals, and other items students relied on receiving from the school. When she found out one of her students did not have computer access at home she didn’t think twice about buying them a laptop.

To make things as normal as possible for the students she also bought materials to turn her basement into a classroom setting. Fridays turned into “Special Guest” days where she would dress up in a variety of outfits and costumes to bring a little fun to her virtual class.

Teacher giving a lesson virtually from home classroom.
Wanting to make things as normal as possible for her students, Karen Larson overhauled her basement to look like her classroom.

But her dedication and compassion for her students don’t just end in the classroom (virtual or not!).

Many of her students and their families call Minneapolis home and were heavily impacted by the riots in May. Some of them had to move out of their homes for a few weeks, staying with family and friends. Through it all, Karen made sure to check in with each of her students and their families to make sure they were safe and brought gifts including items that would keep them busy over the summer.

While schools across the state had to determine in what capacity students could attend for the 2020 – 2021 school year, Karen was busy preparing herself for whatever was to come. Finally, a decision was reached; Lyndale Elementary School would continue with virtual learning into the new school year.

Immediately, Karen, along with many other teachers, began brainstorming on how to best set their students up for success. Even though class would be virtual, she still wanted to make it as interactive as possible by providing various ways students could participate. Before long, she landed on the perfect idea.

First grade teachers collaborating over zoom.
Four heads are better than one! Karen and the rest of the first-grade teachers at Lyndale Elementary spent a lot of time brainstorming together for the new school year.

Fully prepared to pay for everything out of her own pocket, Karen made a note to go out and buy whiteboards and markers for each first grader at her school as soon as she could. School was slated to start in less than a week.

But before she could, Karen and her colleagues were unexpectedly surprised with a delivery of 100 whiteboards and markers through the Wishing Well Program.

And with the same amount of care and concern she had for her students when she visited them with care packages over the summer, Karen made the rounds again to drop off the whiteboards to each of her new students. Virtual or not, there wasn’t anything she wouldn’t do for them.

The Choice Bank Wishing Well is accepting wishes! Ready to cast yours? Visit and let us know who you would like to help out in your community.

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