Caitlin LeQuire’s second-grade class wasn’t totally sure what to think when a handful of people walked into their classroom with cameras. However, it didn’t take long for them to warm up when they saw Matt Richman’s face, founder of Billboards for Education.
“I had told the students they were going to receive a tool to better their education, but they didn’t know what it was,” said Richman.
Billboards for Education is a for-profit meets non-profit company based out of Chattanooga, Tenn. that leases advertising space on billboards. Whatever profits Billboards for Education generates, 10 percent goes directly to education grants in the area that the billboard resides.
“When I describe Billboards for Education, at first people may not believe that it is legitimate,” Richman said. “They don’t believe a for-profit company is going to give away 10 percent off the top. But this shows it works and I want to make a difference.”
Billboards for Education awarded its very first grant to LeQuire’s classroom in conjunction with its advertisers, Taylor’s Tire & Service, Kinard Realty, Steak ‘n Shake, Optilink and Maryville Jewelers. LeQuire’s classroom received 25 brand new iPads for her current and future classrooms to utilize, a substantial upgrade from only having a desktop computer in the classroom.
“It’s so overwhelming and exciting to be the first,” LeQuire said. “This is really going to make a difference, and not just in my classroom. Because of these devices, they’re going to be able to learn a lot more.”
Lequire’s second-graders came to her with lower than average reading levels. She expressed in her grant application that she believed new devices would help progress her classroom’s literacy levels. Richman, who has a master’s in education, agreed.
“Learning isn’t just someone lecturing to you,” Richman said. “You must be engaged. And watching them with the iPads and seeing them so engaged and empowered to take control of their learning…It’s so rewarding to think what this could do for them and every other class Mrs. LeQuire has after this.”
While some students have access to technology when they leave school, LeQuire believes many of her students are only exposed to advanced technology during the school day.
“It’s really exciting for our children to have technology in the classroom and to have their own devices,” said Dr. Rick Little, principal of City Park School. “It’s something we strive for. We are always looking for more opportunities to make devices available for all students in the school.”
The billboard, located on the Steak ‘n Shake property that Richman’s family owns, will continue to give back to education in the community for years to come.
“My goal is to keep the billboard full and keep generating money for the schools,” said Richman. “We want to expand in Dalton and expand everywhere to create grants to empower teachers and to help students.”
For more information on Billboards for Education, visit billboardsforeducation.com.