Shirley Tucker

Reading is a gift that, when harnessed, opens a world of possibilities for students to explore on life’s journey. Providing numerous benefits such as cultivating imagination, expanding vocabulary, and enhancing language skills, the magic of reading empowers students with an endless source of inspiration and personal growth.

Shirley Tucker, educator at La Vernia Intermediate School, envisioned a pathway for her students who have learning differences, such as dyslexia or other language-based challenges, to enjoy reading to the fullest. Thanks to Power of the Dollar® members, she was awarded a $1,000 grant in December 2022 for her “Smart Pens for Smart Readers” project, and she purchased smart pens, which have text-to-speech and translation capabilities.

Helping student with smart pen

Helping student with smart pen

“Words cannot begin to express my gratitude for being awarded a Firstmark education grant for the smart reading pens to support my students in their reading,” said Tucker. “The smart pens have truly made a world of difference in my classroom!”

By removing barriers of written expression, the smart pens give Assisted Learning Environment (ALE) students the gateway to showcasing their reading knowledge, build consistent participation, and excel academically. Gently scanning a sentence, the smart pen will digest the data it has received and then within seconds translate for an easier understanding. The positive impact its made on the students has been indescribably wonderful!

“I am so thrilled that each of you were able to witness the boost of self-confidence in my students when they used the smart reading pens to solve their word problems,” she said. “Your grant made that possible! Thank you again for your generosity and willingness to make reading a reality for my students!” 

Looking to help local schools, invest in your community, and support educators like Shirley Tucker? Make a tangible, positive impact by joining the collective giving of our Power of the Dollar® membership. Learn more at, and together, we can create pathways that lead to better lives and stronger communities.