Newly devised purchasing strategy seen as a plus for Tempe school’s math students

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Members of Tempe Elementary School District’s Purchasing Department have become mentors to students at Scales school, showing them the practical applications of math skills in the workplace. – Photos courtesy Tempe Elementary School District

By Robyn Martinez

The siren call of video games and smart phones can often make learning math basics a bit dry for some students, but the Tempe Elementary School District purchasing department is helping breathe life into math lessons.

The department split into teams of two for the school year with each team serving in a fifth-grade class at Scales Technology Academy once a month. Taking the skills they use each day, team members teach the class about district procurement and how they use those same math skills students to be successful in their profession.

And there’s a side benefit to the math drills: Students are learning about a profitable career opportunity they may not have known existed.

The motivation behind this new partnership came last year after purchasing supervisor Rebecca Seifert visited a classroom at Curry Elementary. After leaving, Seifert shared that she felt so happy and grateful for that time, and it reignited a passion for her job.

“Our jobs can be stressful. I felt like we were losing connection with why we do everything we do. Being with the kids was so special, I felt that we all need that as a reminder for why we do what we do,” Seifert said.

The partnership with the school is beneficial in other ways, too. District staff offer an opportunity for extra help at no cost for those schools that may not have as much community and parental support, giving students another opportunity to develop a positive relationship in their life.

“I like when the purchasing people come to our class because it’s always a fun experience,” said fifth-grader Michelle Portillo. “It’s helpful for when we grow up, and they’re always so nice and care about our safety and whether or not we like the items in our classroom.”

When the purchasing team comes in, they have hands-on problems for the students to solve.

For each lesson, they discuss topics like thresholds, taxes, budget planning, and project planning, and how that relates to the math that they do. Students are able to stretch their minds and practice problem solving using practical, real-life scenarios.

“This partnership is great for my kids. Sometimes when we teach math, we’re teaching in a bubble. So for the kids to see how it applies to real life, it clicks more with them,” said Scales Technology Academy fifth-grade teacher Ryan Vaughan.

Fifth-grade teacher Denise Blasi’s students are creating “Are You Smarter Than a Scales Fifth- Grader” videos, where they explain various aspects of purchasing in their own words. This creative project is not only bringing what they’re learning to life, but it’s also helping them learn video skills.

“I taught the kids one lesson on thresholds, and they were so smart and picked it up after just one lesson. It’s so impactful for our staff to be learning from our kids,” said senior buyer Monique Harris.

This program is meaningful not only for the students and school staff but for the purchasing department as well.

“As we are exposed to the classroom and we build relationships, they have the chance to show us what they need,” said Seifert. “We also receive student input on a variety of products we purchase – anything from markers to wiggle seats. Students have insights that we as adults would never think of.”

“Being in the classroom gives us the opportunity to see things from a different perspective. I understand how important stretching our dollars really is,” said account specialist senior Crystal Carroll.

After returning from a classroom visit, the staff always comes back to the district office feeling invigorated and are so excited to share their experience with others.

Members of the purchasing team hope that other departments will consider participating at schools in the future. Exposing children to as many career options as possible for their future will help them dream and give them hope.

“Working together with our schools reminds us we are on the same team, all working toward student happiness and success here in Tempe Elementary,” Seifert said.

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