One of the best emails I've gotten so far this month arrived from a teacher I don't know, at an MPS school I've never visited.
"Dear Bobby Tanzilo," it read, "My students have really enjoyed using their new dictionaries! They are taking pride in learning new words. I have one student who is basically a non-reader, but he is learning to read new words by matching pictures to words. It's one of his favorite activities to do with a partner.
"We just finished a writing prompt and I was very impressed with my students' final copies. They really scoured the dictionaries to find new words. When correcting the other third grade class' work, I noticed that their words were not nearly as colorful.
I get these every month or so. The best ones arrive with pictures, too; like the ones Ms. T sent with her message. These show a class of 8-year-old MPS kids working with their new dictionaries.
The books were purchased with money raised from ordinary folks like you and me on DonorsChoose.org. In December, six donors pledged $577 to buy dictionaries for Ms. T's class (some obviously gave way more than I did!). In late August, 10 days before the first day of class, she set up the project, writing...
"'Look it up.' As a child, my parents and teachers empowered me to find the answer to my questions instead of just telling me. I want to empower my students as well. Right now I have about 10 dictionaries that are not appropriate for my students. A class set will empower my students to learn.
"I cannot wait for this school year to begin! I have a class of curious, funny, eager to learn 8-year-olds. They question everything! These students just soak up knowledge and want to know more. I am so excited to teach them!"
Every now and again I visit the DonorsChoose site and search for a project at an MPS school that looks like it has a chance of getting fully funded and I make a donation.
It's usually a relatively small amount and it's the feeling of a bunch of us chipping in – working together – to fund a good project that I like best. (That, and doing a small part to help Milwaukee's students and teachers get what they need, of course.) Like Kickstarter, you only pay if the total amount is raised.
Only once have I donated to a project at my child's school. A couple times I've given to projects that a neighbor of mine, who is a teacher, has posted for her classroom.
Another time I gave to a language school attended by my nephew. Still other times, I just picked a school or a project that hit home for some reason. I liked Ms. T's project because it was aimed at helping kids boost their reading and writing skills.
After I post this, I'm going back to DonorsChoose to make another pledge. I'm hoping to find something at a school that I often drive past, like, say, Siefert. But I'll take a minute to look around and see what's out there before I decide.
Maybe you'd consider doing the same thing today. Every little bit helps and you can have the satisfaction of seeing your contribution at work via notes and photographs straight from the classroom.
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Recent Articles & Blogs by Bobby Tanzilo
Published Dec. 4, 2013
A new Colectivo cafe and a new grand cafe concept from the owners of Cafe Benelux restaurant - the first by each of the locally owned dining groups in Waukesha County - will open in The Marcus Corporation's open-air mall called The Corners of Brookfield, located east of Barker Road near the intersection of I-94 and Bluemound Road.
Published Dec. 2, 2013
Tomorrow, Tuesday, Dec. 3, Milwaukee's Stone Creek Coffee celebrates its 20th birthday. And to honor the occasion, the local roaster will serve up its new Anniversary Alchemy blend all day. And if you get to one of the cafes before noon, you can join the celebration by getting a 12-ounce cup of it free!
Published Dec. 2, 2013
Don't feel bad if you've never seen the plaque affixed to 100 East Wisconsin, explaining the historical relevance of the northwest corner of Water and Wisconsin. It's on the lower level of the building, facing the RiverWalk. I've passed it countless times and never noticed. But one day it caught my eye. I took some photographs and spent some time digging to fill in a bit more of the story of this corner that is the birthplace of Milwaukee.
Published Nov. 29, 2013
Miles Davis once compared the jazz violin playing of Milwaukee native Sonya Robinson to the work of Stuff Smith. If you follow jazz, you know what kind of praise that is, especially for a young musician. Nearly 30 years later, after a recent return home to perform at Blu, atop The Pfister hotel, we took the opportunity to chat with Robinson about her career, about her Milwaukee ties and about her new record.
Published Nov. 27, 2013
Thanks to the early frigid temps, ice skating begins Friday, Nov. 29 at Red Arrow Park's Slice of Ice rink, 920 N. Water St. You may recall that unusually warm weather delayed the opening of the rink last year.
Published Nov. 26, 2013
Thanks to fond memories of going to gawk at holiday lights and window displays with my mom and brother as a kid, I'm still a fan of this stuff, especially now that I can bring kids of my own to see them. One of the most enduring in Milwaukee is the Holiday Busytown, which sets up each year in the lobby of the bank at 770 N. Water St. This year's display kicks off on Monday, Dec. 2 and is free and open to the public. And your visit will benefit Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin.
Published Nov. 26, 2013
In the low, dimly lit space beneath St James Episcopal Church, 833 W. Wisconsin Ave., there's a hissing sound and a horizontal geyser of steam shooting out of a pipe. It immediately grabs your attention. Until you see the tall thin grave stone leaning up against a brick column. St. James is built atop the former Spring Street Burying Ground. They think all the human remains were removed when the church bought the property in 1850, but a few scattered headstones mark a lingering doubt.
Published Nov. 25, 2013
If there's any figure on the contemporary dining scene in Milwaukee that needs no introduction it is Sandy D'Amato. D'Amato, who is best known as the founder and former owner of Sanford and Cafe Coquette, has cooked around the world and might almost be single-handedly responsible for the current restaurant boom in the city. We caught up with D'Amato as his hardcover memoir and cookbook, "Good Stock: Life on a Low Simmer," is published. Enjoy this Milwaukee Talks with Sandy D'Amato.
Published Nov. 24, 2013
The Pfister's afternoon tea goes beyond mere refreshment; it is an experience that creates a special occasion and builds fond memories. That makes it a bargain at any price.
Published Nov. 22, 2013
I'm not one to put much faith in the endless lists in every imaginable category, but I know how hard Tina Owen and the rest of the team at Milwaukee Public Schools' Alliance School of Milwaukee, 850 W. Walnut St., so I can't help but be excited about this... In a story for Teen Vogue called "The Coolest High Schools Across the Country," writer Heather Schwedel toasts such renowned schools as New York's LaGuardia High and The Brooklyn Free School. But also on this very short list - just five schools - is Alliance!