Founded in 1999, group has raised thousands to support classrooms
Published in the March 28 – April 10, 2018 issue of Morgan Hill Life
The time Morgan Hill residents took to savor a quality Cabernet and enjoy sweet desserts paid off in local children receiving much-needed supplies to enhance their education. The Teachers Aid Coalition of Morgan Hill raised funds at its popular Chocolate & Wine for Valentine event, held Feb. 10 at the Community Center, with proceeds going to purchase pens, paper, glue, erasers, and other classroom supplies.
The nonprofit group was founded in 1999 by local dentist Jon Hatakeyama and his friend Bob Davis. It is run by volunteers with educational and professional backgrounds to meet the needs of children in Morgan Hill schools by filling the supply gap left by diminishing classroom budgets. Supplies donated to TAC go directly into teachers’ classrooms.
Ron Woolf, a member of the MHUSD school board and a retired educator, worked with his wife Peggy Woolf to greet the line of teachers who filed into the P.A. Walsh STEAM Academy cafeteria after the doors opened at 3 p.m. March 20. The teachers started filling canvas bags with items for their students’ learning.
The giveaway is done twice a year, in March and August. Between 90 and 100 teachers usually show up and it’s often like a homecoming for them to see friends and colleagues.
“The teachers are able to come in and get their big bag of supplies and head out happy,” Woolf said. “It’s helping teachers get extra supplies so they don’t have to spend money out of their own pocket. That’s what it’s all about.”
Hatakeyama and Davis decided to start TAC because they saw how many teachers struggled in classrooms to provide basic learning supplies as school budgets were slashed. They wanted to give back to public education because they and their families had received much benefit from schooling, including Hatakeyama’s four children, each one of which went on to be successful in their careers thanks to their teachers.
“My experience in education has been through public schools,” he said. “I went to elementary school in Fresno. The same thing for my children. They all went to Jackson Elementary School, Britton Middle School and Live Oak High School. I owe a lot to public education, so I formed the Teachers Aid Coalition which helps the teachers, which in the end helps the students.”
The annual Chocolate & Wine for Valentine event has grown in prestige as a fun community fundraiser that includes silent auction items and other prizes. Sponsors include the Rotary Club of Morgan Hill, Paramit, Anritsu, BookSmart, Recology, Johnson Lumber and ACE Hardware, Heritage Bank of Commerce, Peet’s Coffee, and Design Factory Graphics.
“Chocolate and wine, they’re both attractive in their own right,” Hatakeyama said. “So, it does get a lot of community attention. And when the guests find out all the proceeds go toward these giveaways, even if they don’t like chocolate and wine, when they find out it helps the school district, in the end, they want to contribute.”
The wine and chocolate event is TAC’s only fundraiser during the year. But it accepts donations of supplies and money from individuals and businesses throughout the year to help students in Morgan Hill public schools. Many of the donations come from retired educators who want to give back to schools where they had their careers in the classroom.
Steve Betando is impressed by TAC’s involvement in making sure students receive the learning materials they need to build their brains.
“This is one of those organizations that gives back to the kids and does the fundraising for much needed supplies in the classroom,” he said. “Our resources are getting more and more sparse with the changes in the funding structure of the state. The students are using materials in the classroom in order to do well with the curriculum. And it’s great to have the supplies necessary for that. Hands-on activities are so important.”
Having a community connection is also important for teacher morale, he said.
“Especially for the new teachers starting their careers in the classroom, having the community support them by doing things like this keeps them on a positive career path and also helps with the pocket book,” he said.
Among the 100 or so teachers attending the March 20 TAC giveaway was Brian Paulson from Central High School. He oversees the independent courses taught online for students from 7th grade to 12th grade.
“Schools are crunched for funds and things,” he said. “So, to be able to get the supplies such as paper and the different things we either go without or we would have to buy it on our own. It’s a big expense and it adds up.”
Paulson also appreciates the fact the schools are getting the support of the Morgan Hill community in providing the supplies.
“It’s a neat thing getting that involvement where people in the public can contribute to the education of our young people,” he said.