Video: Making a Difference through longer hours

By Correspondent
NBC News
updated 5/10/2007 7:33:03 PM ET 2007-05-10T23:33:03

Just a few miles north of the Mexican border, Sunnyslope Elementary School was a little like many of its students — it was struggling.

"We don't have enough students meeting their benchmarks in reading and math," says Principal Shelley Burgess.

Federal money was tight. Many kids couldn't even speak English. And then last fall, a few teachers offered an odd solution — they would teach more.

"If we have more time with them, we could do so much more with them," says teacher Nancy Mackey.

And they do it for free.

Instead of using their paid 25 minutes at the end of every school day to prepare their lessons for the next day, they started using that time to teach, taking their own personal time after school instead to prepare their lessons. But some did the math — 25 minutes a day was three weeks of extra work a year. For no extra pay.

As you'd imagine, the teachers union was not wild about the idea. The state even had a law against some teachers teaching more hours than others. It was getting complicated.

So the principal decided the teachers could vote on it, but it had to be unanimous. Twelve teachers, already working hard, voted that they should work even harder. And the three teachers who were union representatives made it unanimous.

And so, all year at 2:30 p.m. every day, the "Sunnyslope 12," as they were named, taught extra language, reading, science, math. And you can guess the next part. Many students now are wowing their parents.

"First- and second-graders are showing dramatic gains in reading, writing and that's phenomenal," Principal Burgess says.

All done for the sake of the children.

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