Rachael Ray rewards generous Hoosier teacher

Fri, 2008-08-08 09:56 -- univcomm
August 8, 2008

Rebecca Vanatta has only two children in school, yet her annual spending on clothes and supplies sometimes tops $15,000. [Editor's note: Rebecca is a M.Ed student and currently working on her school administration license in the School of Education].

That's because the art teacher at Anderson High School spends money out of her own pocket to make sure the kids in Anderson's public school system get what they need -- whether it's for books, belts or field trips.

"I'll ask a kid, 'How are you doing in this class or that one?' and he'll go, 'Oh, I'm going to fail it.' I'll ask why and he'll say, 'I don't have this or that, and I don't have the money to get it, so I might as well just forget it,' " Vanatta said. "That is why I started doing it."

Vanatta's generosity was the focus of a recent "Rachael Ray Show." The daytime talk-show host arranged a shopping spree for Vanatta and 20 of her students at a Staples store in Muncie.

"That was so much fun, and it meant so much to the kids and their parents," Vanatta said.

She added that she's never felt taken advantage of.

"Once, I gave one of my students $25 for a field trip and, although he didn't have to, he paid me back one dollar every week. He had a job and was buying food for his own family."

The veteran school supply shopper tells parents to not only "look for the deals at places like Wal-Mart and the dollar stores," but make sure you're buying the right stuff.

"Buy a few supplies in advance -- but not everything, because certain teachers will want particular items and you usually find that out the first day," said Vanatta. "And parents really need to go to that open house and talk to the teachers.

"When kids go to high school, the parents think, 'Oh, they're all grown up and we don't need to go.' But they aren't," Vanatta said.

"Talk to the teachers and make sure they tell you exactly what's going on and what is needed. You don't want to be spending $100 on the wrong calculator."

—Zach Dunkin is a reporter for the Indianapolis Star. Story republished with permission.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2008, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the fourth consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.