It’s Not Just About Soup
Teachers Find—and Fund—Ideas for Nourishing Their Classrooms


The headline in an email from Education Week last week was “State Cut Scores Vary for New Teaching Exam.” Good thing I didn’t stop at that one and scrolled down a little further to find the real story:

Over Soup Dinner, Philadelphia Teachers Network for Classroom Funding

The article went on to describe how an entrepreneurial set of teachers took finding resources into their own hands by hosting what the Education Week writer called a combination of “Shark Tank” and DonorsChoose.

PhilaSoup is an innovative quarterly gathering in which Philadelphia teachers share a warm meal and pitch ideas for how they would use the proceeds from the evening’s admission fees of $10 per person to benefit their students.

In this venue, however, everyone wins: first, because each of the three teachers who present their proposal will receive a portion of the micro-grant funds—50, 30 or 20 percent; and second, because all of the participants learn from each other’s ideas for giving their students meaningful learning experiences. As the attendees vote for the project that they think should win the top prize that evening, they are also becoming part of a growing network of educators who are taking the initiative to improve their schools—minus the wait time of a typical grant application.

In February, for example, 1st grade teacher Ashley Post walked away with the third place prize—$141.80 to provide books for every reading level in her classroom at First Philadelphia Preparatory Charter School. And Willa Deitch, who works at YouthBuild Philadelphia Charter School, received $354.50 that night to support an “auto-ethnography” project for high school dropouts who are earning their diplomas and gaining job skills at the same time.

Founded by a former teacher and her sister, PhilaSoup has helped raised more than $10,000 for local teachers over the past four years. PhilaSoup Ambassadors have also been recruited to lead similar “soup” events in their own communities—spreading even more opportunities for teachers to obtain the supplies and technology they need to provide engaging instruction.

I love the spirit and it obviously speaks to someone with an appetite for education—get it? I’m dying to host one for teachers in my community! Any takers?

-C.