And she should know. While other local teachers were trying to get support for projects from big potential benefactors, like IBM and Apple Computers, Howell put the touch on small local businesses. Thanks to her efforts, the local TCBY frozen yogurt franchise, a Jerry's Sub Shop, and the neighborhood's 7-Eleven get together five times a year to provide pizza, drinks, and a sheet cake for the winners of school reading contests. The McDonald's in town springs for a "happy meal'' for students of the week. And a local newspaper advises the school newspaper.
"It was rare that I went to a business, and they said no,'' says Howell, who started approaching local companies last summer. "Whenever you go face to face with managers of small businesses, and they see you're a teacher, they will do what they can. They realize that it's their future, too, the future of their businesses. Someday, our students might work for them.''
Howell asked many of the male businesspeople she approached if they would be willing to spend time with some boys who needed special attention. Seven said yes, and the program has blossomed into what Howell calls Project GIVE (Get Involved: Volunteer in Education). Each male mentor is teamed up with two boys in 1st through 3rd grades. The men-- including a local newspaper editor, a locksmith, a veterinarian, and the manager of a tire store--come once a week at designated times to play with Legos, make model cars, read stories, or tap away at a computer.
"Some of these boys are being brought up by their mothers,'' Howell explains. "Many need a male in their lives. Some are shy or aggressive; they need some extra attention, someone to open up to.''
The program, she says, "gives them an opportunity to have a relationship with men at school. Once they get to school, they seldom see men.''
Howell may never win a grant from a major corporation or a national foundation, but her willingness to think small has paid off in a big way for her students.