They have new board to go to

Published March 20, 2007

LECANTO - About five years ago, curriculum specialist Debby Hudson sought a $5,000 grant to purchase a SMART Board for CREST School. She said the board would be an ideal learning tool for the students, who all have special needs.

Now, thanks to the generosity of area Veterans of Foreign Wars posts, the school is about to get 11 more boards.

A SMART Board looks like a portable whiteboard on which a teacher might write with erasable markers. But a SMART Board is much, much more. It is interactive. It works with a computer and digital projector. Anything can be projected onto a SMART Board; once the information is there, students and teachers can touch it and move the projected figures, work problems and solve puzzles.

When the first SMART Board arrived at the school, teachers weren't trained how to use it. The board sat in storage for years.

Enter Jack Vino. The school's most recent media specialist, now in his second year, was looking through the media equipment and came across the SMART Board. He was familiar with the technology.

With the help of Karen Hancock from the Florida Diagnostic Learning Resource Center, Vino enhanced his knowledge.

Then he began to train teachers. He downloaded software that was appropriate for special-needs students and gave the SMART Board to teachers for one week each in five classrooms.

"They fell in love with it. They didn't want me to take the board out of the room," he said.

Students, including those whose fine motor skills are poor, can write on a SMART Board using only their fingers. Electronic markers can be used to write on it.

The board can be used to teach anything: language arts, geography, cultures, history, calendars, spelling, numbers, the alphabet, art.

It can have a keyboard projected onto it. "You can go on and on," Vino said.

"We can copy any book and it will read the book to the student and do language skills with the student," he said.

"So," said CREST principal Keith Posta, "teachers wanted the board."

Two of those teachers, Jane Pilla and Darla Croft, started working with local VFWs to get more boards. Pilla had been receiving smaller donations from Post 4252 in Hernando for a long time, including toys at Christmas, baskets of personal products and money.

Pilla invited District 7 and Post 4252 commander Bob Prive and Ladies Auxiliary president Judy Prive to a demonstration of a SMART Board. Impressed, they then wanted to demonstrate the technology to other VFWs and groups.

Croft and speech therapist Betty Wright were glad to oblige. "It just kind of escalated from there," said Post 4252 bartender Charlene Rebmann.

"When we went to the demonstration, we were so in awe," said Judy Prive. "I think it's going to help their education in the long run. We're very good to CREST because we know they don't get the funding other schools get because of their size. If we can help them, we're going to help them."

The other VFW members were also impressed and wanted to help. Originally, Rebmann said, they had hoped to be able to donate enough to purchase three boards. The amount swelled to enough money for 11 boards and wheeled stands.

Recently, VFW representatives visited CREST, which is at the Lecanto school complex, to present a check for $16,477. The SMART Boards are on their way.

These are the VFW posts that donated toward the CREST SMART Boards: Post 4252 and its ladies auxiliary, Hernando; Post 8698 and its ladies and men's auxiliaries, Inglis; District 7 bartenders; Post 10137 and its ladies auxiliary, Bushnell; Post 5625, Chiefland; Post 10084 and its ladies auxiliary, Lake Panasoffkee; Post 10087 and its men's auxiliary, Beverly Hills; Post 8713 and its ladies auxiliary, Brooksville; and a personal contribution from Harry Hurst from Post 4337.