Return to World Ark Blog Landing

Ms. Ritchie's Utility Belt

Ms. Ritchie did a great job of using Heifer's myriad of resources to make Johnston Middle School's Read to Feed campaign a success! Here are some quick links:

Editor's Note: To celebrate the Read to Feed spring match, a $50,000 matching gift challenge that will match every dollar raised by Read to Feed students and classrooms around the country, we're sharing a special series of Read to Feed stories from teachers and students! This one comes from Ms. Mari Ritchie, a seventh grade English teacher from Johnston Middle School in Houston, Texas. They ended up raising more than $10,000! Thanks, Ms. Ritchie! 

It all started when I received the Fall 2014 World Ark magazine from Heifer International.  Well, really, it started about 15 years ago when my mother gave me my first Heifer goat for Christmas.  That gift changed my life and, in a far more significant way, changed the life of someone I will never meet.  It’s a blessing to give an animal that is going to improve someone’s life.  That goat started my journey with Heifer International. 

Now on the mailing list for Heifer, I receive World Ark, and in the Fall of 2014, I was inspired by the students at Prairie Ridge Elementary School who raised over $10,000 by READING.  As an English/Language Arts teacher, I know the value of reading.  And I knew that this was something I could do!

I teach seventh grade at Johnston Middle School, a large urban school in Houston, Texas.  The student body represents every form of diversity – race, culture, economic, academic.  Read to Feed was something that we could share and, in the process, learn about the world around us and grow in acceptance of the people in our own little corner of it. 

My first stop was the librarian.  Any Read to Feed program is going to need the librarian on board, and I am blessed to have The Amazing Mrs. Cindy Dinneen who quickly became my partner in crime.  We brainstormed a plan.  We ordered Flora and the Runaway Rooster by John Claude Bemis, a children’s book, but a good overview and conversation-starter about Heifer and Read to Feed.  We showed Heifer videos at faculty meetings, and we got organized!

Any Read-to-Feed program is going to need the librarian on board, and I am blessed to have The Amazing Mrs. Cindy Dinneen who quickly became my partner in crime. Ms. Mari Ritchie , Johnston Middle School English Teacher

Mrs. Dinneen and I selected animals to represent dollar values that the students could identify with.  Any student raising $20 was purchasing a chicken (representing Heifer’s 10 baby chicks), $60 equaled a rabbit, $120 meant a pig, $250 was a water buffalo, and $500 for a heifer.  This was a great idea because it gave students a tangible connection to what their donation provided.  At the end, student’s names were written on the animals they earned and they were displayed in the “Farmyard of Fame.”

Because we have a large number of students at Johnston, we created our own sponsor/books/donation page.  We were able to personalize it with our dates and school information.  We used the official Read to Feed Student Guides as promotional material.  Many of them got cut apart and the information was placed around the building.  The fun color pictures increased interest and created buzz for the Read to Feed campaign. 

Thumbs up for ice cream and making the world a better place.
Thumbs up for ice cream and making the world a better place.

State testing in Texas occurs in April, so we made our 30-day reading window around those dates.  After students finish a test, the only thing the state allows them to do is read – so what a wonderful use of time for Read to Feed!  With the support of teachers as test monitors, we were able to promote that time as designated reading time – a win-win for Read to Feed and classroom management!

Good things inspire good things.  Excited by the groundwork of Read to Feed, Mrs. Chelsea Kennedy organized a Fight-to-Feed Kickstart Kids karate tournament which raised $2,128.

At our local Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Parlor, the proprietor allowed us to collect donations on National Free Cone Day.  Many of our students helped out by scooping (and eating!) ice cream.  It was a great day for getting information about Heifer into the community.  We collected $358.13 in donations, but more importantly, we publicized the great work that Heifer is doing around the world. As a school teacher, I know that it is sometimes about the seeds we plant, not the harvest we reap.  

My students can do that! Take me to Read to Feed!

Stay tuned to World Ark blog for Ms. Ritchie's Read to Feed FAQs and more stories from teachers across the country!


Heifer International

Heifer International is a nonprofit, non-governmental organization working with communities to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth.