- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

ASHFORD, Wash. (AP) - Teacher Kathy Johnstone is closer than ever to retiring with a cool million - bread bag tabs, that is.

Johnstone, who teaches grades six through eight at Columbia Crest A-STEM Academy in Ashford, started collecting the plastic closure devices that come on bags of bread and other foods in 2004. She and her students have been carefully counting and tabulating ever since.

Her goal is to show students what the number 1 million actually looks like. She hopes to reach 1 million before she retires in June.

After The News Tribune wrote about Johnstone’s quest back in May, other media, including KOMO radio and Rural Life Magazine, followed with stories of their own. And the bread tabs started to pour in from individuals and businesses.

The collection grew from 559,000 in May to 963,000. Many have come in packages mailed to the school.

“I appreciate all the people who contributed. I’m impressed that people are willing to spend money on postage and that they’re willing to send me the tabs,” Johnstone said shortly before winter break. “We’re getting close but we still haven’t caught up with the counting.”

She and her students count and separate the tabs into groups of 10, 100, 1,000, 10,000 and 100,000, with separate sized containers for each milestone. She uses the containers to teach about numbers, in math and in other subjects. The graphic representation of numbers helps her students visualize how big each number is.

With fewer than 40,000 to go, Johnstone is confident she and her students can reach the million-tab mark by the end of the school year. She’s promised them a party to celebrate.

Johnstone is planning games and crafts for the party, including the construction of a giant mosaic made of bread tabs.

She read about a school in Singapore that holds a Guinness World’s Record for making a mosaic with 38,000 pieces.

“I read that, and I thought, ‘That’s nothing,’ ” Johnstone said.

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Information from: The News Tribune, https://www.thenewstribune.com

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

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