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SONIC Limeades for Learning February Teacher of the Month: Motivating and Rewarding Students During Virtual Learning

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SONIC’s February Teacher of the Month is Steven Deaver who teaches History at West Side High School in Newark, NJ.

Below, Steven explains how SONIC and DonorsChoose helped him motivate his students in their virtual learning during the pandemic.

What inspired you to become a teacher?

I was in between jobs and my wife said to me, “I think you would be a great teacher.” I took the steps toward becoming a substitute teacher and during that time, the principal offered me a grant opportunity to become a licensed teacher, so I took advantage of a free college education.

What are some of your go-to ways to encourage student engagement in the classroom?

My students are extrinsically motivated, so I utilize a reward system approach. Secondarily, I can always engage them with life lessons.

What is your favorite project that has received funding from SONIC Drive-In?

SONIC Drive-In funded my project, “Virtual Reality.” It’s my favorite because the materials made a huge difference in determining whether some of my senior and special needs students would remain engaged, participate, and complete their coursework.

Before this project was funded, some of my students didn’t have laptops or a quiet area to complete work, or even Wi-Fi. With this donation, I was able to purchase laptops, noise-canceling earbuds, and mobile Wi-Fi hotspots for the students who truly needed them. It truly pushed them to continue developing while we navigated new virtual platforms during the pandemic.

What professional relationships have you found most beneficial in your teaching career?

I’ve found the most beneficial relationships to be those developed with outside community partners like SONIC Drive-In and DonorsChoose, because they support us with the necessary resources to better educate our students.

How can community members and brands best support teachers? Why is it important?

In urban school districts, funding and resources are critical to the success of the teacher’s quality and quantity of the educational experience offered to their students. At times, community and corporate partners are what separate failure from success.

What are some notable classroom needs you have right now that funding could support?

I am currently a club advisor for three clubs in my school. One is called Go Green Initiatives, where we focus on creating urban gardens to provide sustainable foods to food desert locations. We’re in need of funds to purchase six outdoor picnic tables and a portable Salad Bar for our school.

Are you a teacher interested in securing funding through DonorsChoose? Visit their website today.

This story is part of an ongoing series.