- The San Angelo School Foundation handed out grants to 57 teachers in the SAISD school system on Wednesday
- Teachers on 21 campuses received checks for between $50 and $500
- One campus was awarded $850 for a program and a group of four teachers at another school each received grants to combine for special education
- A total of $20,275 was given out
- Teachers use the funds to purchase a variety of classroom and teaching tools
Teachers in schools throughout the San Angelo Independent School District were cheering and dancing on Wednesday, as a prize patrol from the San Angelo Schools Foundation made the rounds distributing grants to 57 teachers at 21 campuses in San Angelo.
The annual surprise visit occurs in November on a secret and changing date, after a committee has reviewed all applications from area teachers and allocated funds for winning projects. Checks are written to teachers in range from $50 to $500 and are used to purchase a variety of classroom teaching tools.
“We encourage the teachers to think a little outside the box,” said Debbi Meads, CEO of the San Angelo Schools Foundation. “Paper and pencils—we don’t do that type of stuff. We encourage the teachers to be creative.”
This year, teachers were awarded a total of $20,275 for use on projects ranging from technology and electronics, to smart board applications and devices, books and even sensory equipment for a large group of special needs children.
As the bus stopped at each school and the prize patrol popped out, each teacher was surprised in her classroom with a balloon and a manila envelope containing the check and all instructions.
Susan Short, a 3rd grade teacher at San Jacinto, was just rounding the corner in the hall when the prize patrol showed up. “What is this?!” she asked, eyeing the group suspiciously. Someone answered, ‘You’ve won a grant!’ and she started cheering in the hall, which her 3rd graders then picked up. “I’m so excited! It’s my first one!” she exclaimed.
Other teachers en route on Wednesday have received the grants before, and applied and won again this year.
Sharla Vass, another 3rd grade teacher at San Jacinto, said she intends to use her grant of $250 to buy a mini iPad. “We won one [iPad with grant money] last year, so we’re just going to keep on rolling,” she said, happily relaying the news to her schoolchildren.
For a number of teachers the iPad was a popular product. Fifth grade teacher Torrey Clay from Crockett Elementary, won a $500 grant for her iPads, and already has a plan of how to use them. “We’ have the sweetest 5th graders and they’ve all adopted kindergartners…they have to teach them something each week,” Clay says. “Next week, they’re going to be doing light and sound and they are going to use these iPads for these presentations,” she said.
In addition to the individual grants, groups and campuses may apply for funding for larger-scale projects and receive up to $1,000 if accepted.
“We give one campus-wide grant,” Meads explains. “It has to benefit the whole campus to qualify.”
This year’s recipient of the campus-wide grant of $850 was Alta Loma Elementary. Teacher Sheri Pruitt applied for the grant and plans to use the funds to create “literacy stations,” which will serve to incorporate science with reading and writing, by means of books with science project instructions. Students will learn about different areas of science and complete projects, then write about them, Pruitt said.
Reagan Elementary also received a large sum this year, as a group of four teachers at combined efforts to apply for grants for their special education classes. Christine Kolls, Jovan Cosper, Elizabeth Wilson and Janis Dierschke each received checks for $250 to put toward an “age-appropriate gross motor room,” which will help students with sensory problems.
Gross motor functions are those utilizing large muscle groups, explained Dierschke. The group will purchase equipment similar to that used in physical therapy. “There’s a lot of sensory issues,” said Dierschke. “It’s used to calm them down and to organize so they can function better.”
The group of four teachers is currently teaching over 37 students.
This year, 83 teachers applied for grants in varying sums from the School Foundation. A large portion of the funds available for grants come from the teachers themselves, who opt to have an amount deducted from their paychecks or donate a specific sum before the grants are written.
Holiman was the top participating school this year, bringing in the highest number of teachers contributing to the grant program. Last year, the school won the campus-wide grant and transformed the shell of an old cafeteria into a rec room for rainy days.
“It’s nice to have a place for the kids to go and get out of the elements,” Holiman Principal Dave Danner. With last year’s funds, the school purchased new tables and chairs, as well as paint and tile flooring.
This year, Principal Danner made a special offer to one of his grant applicants, Lisa Olivas-Chaumont. “I know she’s going to be really excited that she won,” he said. “She’s the one I’d told her I’d match if she got it.”
Olivas-Chaumont applied for and won $500 for a new portable PA system to use for events when children are crowded into large rooms. Unfortunately, she was not on campus to receive the grant on Wednesday, but Danner accepted it on her behalf. “This really helps,” he said.
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