California Educator

April/May 2021

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Indispensable Accessory The Schoolbelt keeps everything educators need easily accessible W H E N T H E P A N D E M I C closed schools in March 2020, kindergarten teacher Connie Valencia, like so many educators, had a tough time dealing with the separation from her students and the sudden stop to teaching and school routine. e 26-year teaching veteran and member of Hemet Teachers Association found remote teaching from home to be a struggle and sought "an outlet with a purpose." She had long been thinking of a way she and other educators could keep items they need, from pens to oce passes to cellphones, easily accessible all day long, whether in the classroom or schoolyard. And as the pandemic pro- gressed, she knew they would have to be prepared with tools to keep hands clean and surfaces sanitized. So, during the shutdown Valencia created an d re c ently l aun ch ed th e S ch o o l b elt, a heavy-duty yet lightweight utility apron that keeps ever ything an educator might need at hand. She crafted the belt through much trial and error, including late-night sketches and sloppy sewing, along with feedback from school workers and assistance from her uphol- sterer brother. Bringing her product to market tapped into entrepreneurial skills the mother of four didn't know she had. e belt's patent is currently pending. "My greatest joy is hearing the positive feedback that educators and school sta are sharing regarding the Schoolbelt's impact on their work- day," Valencia says. She is proud that her invention allows her and her peers to be more organized and ecient while keeping hands free, and helps students and sta stay healthy and safe. She's also happy that the belt's sleek design allows wearers to look professional. e Schoolbelt is made in the U.S. of coated polyester fabric, with nine pockets of varied sizes, a retractable keyring carabiner, and a sturdy mesh pouch that can hold hand sanitizer, a spray bottle or a small water bottle. e basic belt costs $28.99 and is available at Add-ons include a whistle, mini-clipboard and badge-holder. As a way of giving back, Valencia has started "Some- one's Superhero," where school sta and students can nominate a special individual who has gone the extra mile to impact the lives of others. "One nominated Superhero will be featured monthly on our website and social media page [] and gifted with an honorary Schoolbelt to brighten their workday," Valencia says. "I am excited to feature our Superheroes' inspiring stories." You'll save time with essentials right at hand. Connie Valencia models her creation. "My greatest joy is hearing the positive feedback that school staff are sharing regarding the Schoolbelt's impact on their workday." 58 CTA & You

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