Lowcountry education foundation surprises teachers with grants for classroom projects

Fourteen Beaufort County public school teachers were surprised today by news that they had won innovative teacher grants from the Foundation for Educational Excellence, a fund of the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. Foundation members visited teachers’ classrooms to deliver the news in person.

The 14 grants announced today, funded through a donation from First Citizens Bank, totaled $5,000 and ranged in size from $120 to $500.  Funded projects ranged from reading intervention software to sophisticated calculators.

“This is a win-win situation,” said Grants Committee Chair Louise Lewis. “Our teachers win recognition for their successful applications, and their students win because of the academic benefits of these innovative classroom projects.”

The Foundation for Educational Excellence Fund was established in 2007 and the first grants awarded in 2009.  The primary function of the foundation, chaired by Jan Davis-Vater of Hilton Head Island, is to raise funds for teacher grants that spur innovation.  Grants of up to $500 are awarded twice each year, and thousands of students have benefited since 2009.

“Public school budgets being what they are these days, teachers often can’t fund these sorts of specialized projects,” Davis-Vater said.  “Either they find the money themselves or the projects don’t happen.  That’s why the foundation’s role in helping teachers to improve academic achievement is so important.”

The foundation solicits individual and business donors and also holds a major fund-raiser each spring that features silent and live auctions of items donated by individuals and businesses.  The 2012 fund-raiser is scheduled for 6-9 p.m. Friday, March 2, at the Country Club of Hilton Head.  Tickets may be purchased on line at www.foundationedexcellence.com (click on “Tickets” at the bottom of the page). 

Individuals, organizations or businesses interested in making donations for teacher grants on line can do so via the Community Foundation of the Lowcountry’s website (www.cf-lowcountry.org).  On the website’s main page, click “Give,” then choose “Donate Online” from the drop-down menu.  Look for “Choose your fund,” and from that drop-down menu, choose “Beaufort County School District Foundation for Educational Excellence Fund.”

Winter 2012 Innovative Teacher Grant recipients

  • Hazel Bostick, Pritchardville Elementary, Grade 2 ($465.24) – Purchase sets of literature books that will be read, discussed, and reviewed to challenge students reading at or above grade level. Students will use the books in “literature circles,” a research-based practice that supports independent reading and cooperative learning. By working cooperatively and collaborating on different books, reading skills improve and vocabulary increases.
  • Shelia H. Cato, Beaufort High, Grade 9 Enrichment Seminar ($500) – “Read 180” is an intensive, research-based reading intervention program that increases reading achievement of struggling students. Students learn reading, spelling, writing, grammar, and test-taking skills using individualized instructional software, data-driven small-group instruction and independent reading. This project will provide the rBook, a workbook that “scaffolds” instruction through the use of graphic organizers, sentence starters and writing frames.
  • Kimberly Gallagher, Hilton Head Island Middle, Grade 6-8 ($300) – Purchase classroom script sets to enhance student academic achievement through theatre arts. Drama allows students to explore conflicts, issues, consequences, attitudes, emotions, concerns and preoccupations that are important to understanding real life. The scripts will be centered on core curriculum content.
  • Hannah Lea, St Helena Elementary, Grade 4 Music ($426) – Purchase recorder wind instruments and a Music Magazine subscription. This project will provide opportunities for student-to-student interaction and support cooperative learning. Fourth-graders will collect data on individual student goals, progress and achievement. Students also will incorporate data into tables, line graphs and bar graphs during math class. At the end of the unit, the students will host a school-wide showcase of their work with a performance.
  • Carolyn Montgomery, Pritchardville Elementary, Grade 4 Science ($341) – Purchase pressure-treated wood to build raised planter beds to create an outdoor classroom garden. Students will be responsible for planting, watering, fertilizing and tending the garden until harvest time. Students also will chart plant growth in math and science classes.
  • Shane R. Peek, Whale Branch Middle, Grade 5-7 Science ($120) – Purchase a 50-gallon rain barrel that students will help attach to the school gutter systems.  Run-off water can then be stored and used to irrigate the school’s butterfly, herb and vegetable gardens instead of using school-funded water supplies.  The practices students learn through this project will teach them competent conservation skills beneficial in their everyday lives.
  • Suzi Prekop, Mossy Oaks Elementary, Grade 1 ($167) – Purchase board games that promote deductive reasoning, problem-solving, drawing comparisons, computation and math skills. The board games will provide students with opportunities to play games that foster the development of speaking and listening skills while also developing thinking and problem-solving abilities under the guise of having fun.
  • Kelly Pulaski, Coosa Elementary, Grade 2 ($293) – Purchase books to do an author study during independent reading.  During the Patricia Polacco author study, students will explore themes such as racism in “Mr. Lincoln’s Way” and sibling relationships in “My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother.” This author study will help students understand the relationship between reading and writing. During writing workshop, students will write responses in their journals to further connect characters and themes in books.                                                      
  • Dana Scaglione, Beaufort Middle, Grade 6 Music ($130) – Purchase musical wind instruments commonly known as recorders. Students will learn the fundamentals of reading and understanding sheet music, culminating in a classroom performance. Research shows that the process of playing simplified wind instruments, while reading from sheet music notation, significantly benefits cognitive development.                      
  • Tennille Scheriff, Hilton Head Elementary School for Creative Arts, Grade 4 ($257) – Purchase picture books on America’s westward expansion to use in Social Studies.  The picture books will help students visualize the life of a pioneer child, including hardships and incentives involved in traveling west. This project will include listening, speaking, writing, researching and reading.        
  • Steve Shamblen, Beaufort-Jasper Academy for Career Excellence, Grade 9-12 Math ($500) – Purchase a class set of Texas Instruments TI-30XS multi-view calculators to use in preparing for Algebra 1 end-of-course exams and high school exit exams.  The calculators will provide learning-disabled and at-risk students with greater opportunities to succeed on these high-stakes tests. As a result, more students will be eligible for graduation with a diploma in addition to the certification they earn in their Career and Technology Education programs.
  • Kimberly Stanziola, Bluffton Middle, Grade 6-8 Math ($500) – Purchase math games and manipulatives to use in Grade 6-7 classes with students who have not met state standards on the Palmetto Assessment of State Standards (PASS).  These students will benefit from using concrete materials, especially when learning fractions, percentages, decimals, and geometric properties.  Math manipulatives help students see and comprehend relationships within specific numbers by allowing them to explore and create their own connections.
  • Alicia Weaver, HE McCracken Middle, Grade 9 English Language Arts ($500) – Purchase high-interest books for the school’s ELA Library.  Studies demonstrate the importance of reading and the impact it has on all subject areas, such as comprehension levels in multiple types of texts, vocabulary and overall performance.
  • Vera Yancey, Hilton Head Island Elementary, Grade 1-5 Media ($500) – Purchase passports, stamps, maps and flags to use in the school’s “Passport Club.”  In this club, each student is given a passport and then completes geography-related projects during the year.  A parent, grandparent or community volunteer checks over these projects, then students receive postage stamps in their passports from countries they have identified.  The Passport Club promotes cross-disciplinary collaboration, as well as strong parent and community involvement in the school.
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