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Idaho Lottery helps SHS teachers' wishes come true

by CAROLINE LOBSINGER
Staff Writer | February 2, 2024 1:00 AM

SANDPOINT — Sandpoint High School got its wish — actually several wishes — thanks to the Idaho Lottery's Classroom Wishlist program.

The lottery made two deliveries at the high school, the first to Allison Sletager, one of the school’s English teachers; and the second to Derek Dickinson for a tech upgrade to the school’s library.

The total deliveries to Sandpoint High School were over $3,000.

The Idaho Lottery was created to benefit public education in the state, spokesman David Workman said. Among its programs developed to support that mission is Classroom Wishlist, which awards $10,000 a month to teachers around the state who are working on creative classroom and education solutions.

Sletager, who teaches freshman English, Pre-AP, and AP Literature and Composition, received organizational materials and books to create an in-class library. The value of the items is $706.37.

 “I want to create a classroom library so that students can check out novels directly from me,” said Sletager. “I am hoping to instill a love of learning and reading in my students. I would love to have novels readily available to them.”

The school's students have access to the school library and the public library. However, it can be difficult to find the novels needed — or enough copies of them, Sletager said.

"This makes it difficult for students to find novels to read without having to purchase them," she added.

When Sletager found out about the Classroom Wishlist program, she realized she had an answer to that problem. She had started to add books to an online shopping cart but quickly realized it would take her several years to build up the library on her own.

"I thought, what the heck, why not try," Sletager said of why she sought a Wishlist grant from the Lottery. "Now, I was able to get all of them, which I'm really excited about."

Having the novels will help her not only help her students learn but will also help her instill a love of reading.

"I think English is a really unique subject," she told Lottery officials after accepting the supplies. "And it's special because you get to talk about the human condition and things like what makes you human and the dreams and hopes of people. And you'll learn a lot through them in a safe environment through books."

For her AP students, having the novels they need will help her give them the best chance to pass the exam. The test features a series of multiple-choice questions on both classic and contemporary literature as well as essays.

"So we want them to be exposed to as much literature as possible so that they can find success on that exam," Sletager said. "… And if we start them early reading books and finding a love of reading, then when they get to their senior year, they'll have even more success in that exam, which helps them get into college."

Dickinson, who served as one of the school's vice principals last year before being seriously injured in a car accident in January 2023, received $2,346.36 worth of equipment to start the process of bringing the school's library up to date. 

As part of the Wishlist grant, Dickinson received a 3D printer, mobile charging stations, and a smart TV for the school's library.

Dickinson was seriously injured in a Jan. 31, 2023, accident, which left him unable to work for the remainder of the school year. This year, it's meant doing something other than his previous role as an assistant principal, a role he'd held for nine years.

A majority of his current role is revamping the school's library to make it a modern space with the equipment the students need to learn and keep them engaged in school, Dickinson said.

"I really want to do an excellent job at this, as I feel I owe it to the school for all of their support during my challenging time," Dickinson said. "Currently, the library is a ghost town of wasted space, basically used for storing textbooks."

He told Lottery officials that he wants to change that — the Wishlist program gave him the springboard to get the process started. He's already weeded out old books and is problem-solving with others in the district to figure out a different storage solution for the school's textbooks.

"As space starts to open up, I want to start adding items which will appeal to students and get kids in this great space," Dickinson said. "Technology is proven to help engage students in the classroom, so why not use technology to draw students in the library?"

In his application for a Wishlist grant, Dickinson said the smart TV can be used for everything from live-streaming events to finding educational programs that engage students in a subject. It could even be used by students for their senior projects.

A 3D printer would attract students to the library, he said.

"Maker spaces are becoming more and more popular, and this could be the crown jewel of a little maker space here in our library," he said.

Dickinson envisions transforming the library from rigid chairs at school-like tables to one that is more appealing. Tall tables, small group tables, and lounge-type chairs — even a circular couch that would invite students in to relax, study, and quietly talk.

Having charging stations — a key addition with students assigned Chromebooks for their studies — will be invaluable as well as encouraging students to come to the library.

"We have a ton of untapped potential here in the library," he said. "I want the SHS library to be a source of pride and a place students can come to help them be more successful."

Created to benefit public education in the state, the Idaho Lottery has a variety of ways to support its mission, Workman told Lake Pend Oreille School District officials, who coincidentally were gathered in the school library for a meeting and were on hand for Dickinson's presentation.

"Every year, we give back a truckload of money," Workman told officials at Sandpoint High School during a Wednesday visit to Bonner County. "This past year, it was $82 million to support education and facilities around the around the state of Idaho, including right here in town."

    As part of the Classroom Wishlist program, Derek Dickinson received a 3D printer, mobile charging stations, and a Smart TV for the school's library from the Lottery.