Turning Wine Into Wishes

A music teacher in western Sonoma County used his wish for wooden flutes

by Matt Villano

Great teachers are always looking for creative ways to touch students’ lives.

Unfortunately, schools often do not fund those special touches that so often change the course of students’ lives. In some classes, these educators wish for books. In others, the needs are more basic: pens, paper, maybe an overhead projector so students can follow a lesson.

Since 2012, the John Jordan Foundation (JJF) has sought to bridge some of these gaps with the Teachers’ Wishes initiative.

The goal of the campaign is simple: to make wishes for certain teachers come true.

Every September, teachers can submit applications to receive funding for one wish. In seven years, the foundation has funded a total of 725 grants.

The Teachers’ Wishes program set a new record in 2018. The foundation received 243 applications and distributed 120 fully funded grants. The remaining 123 teachers each received $20 gift cards to Office Depot. That means every applicant received funding of some kind. Though there have been years with more applications, 2018 brought the largest number of wishes that JJF fulfilled since the program’s inception.

All told, the applicant pool represented 106 schools across 30 districts in Sonoma County. According to Lisa Wittke Schaffner, executive director of the foundation, the breadth and depth of the application pool was a reminder that teachers are committed to doing their best. “Each year, Teachers’ Wishes reminds me of the creativity and desire of educators to provide an interactive and interesting environment for their students,” she said.

A handful of applications were particularly inspiring, such as the one from Santa Rosa City Schools, in which a teacher requested money to purchase more books to help students prepare for the ACT, SAT and Advanced Placement exams, as well as books to help students write college essays. Or the application from a teacher in Sebastopol, who said her school’s campus is poorly landscaped and requested money to buy some trees.

“This grant program allows teachers to have a new teaching tool and purchase project supplies to get the kids excited about learning,” Wittke Schaffner said.

The Teachers’ Wishes program is an annual program, which means teachers can submit new applications to fund additional wishes as soon as September 2019.

A significant portion of the proceeds from Jordan Winery fund the foundation, which works to fight the negative health effects of poverty, improve and provide special educational opportunities, and support children and families in need.