STEM learning materials and student motivation programs are among the most sought after additions to school curriculums in Marion County. Marion Community Foundation’s 2022 Teaching, Educating And Classroom Help (TEACH) Grants Program is funding nine projects, a large percentage of which included requests to increase hands-on classroom learning materials and initiate student reward/recognition programs.
Marion Community Foundation’s Marion County TEACH Grants Program, supported by Pillar Credit Union and local donors, accepted applications this spring from classroom teachers, kindergarten through high school. The grants program was promoted to schools throughout Marion County and received applications totaling $21,000 in requests. Each of the Marion County schools submitted at least one application, as well as St. Mary School and Marion Preparatory Academy.
The 2022 grant awards include:
Elgin High School, $1,250 for “Comet Pride,” a program to recognize students who exemplify school spirit. “Comet Pride,” according to teacher Ashley Auld, will recognize students who earn all passing grades, have no discipline referrals, and who are involved and active in school activities, athletics, and extracurricular clubs.
“We want to encourage and reward students who exemplify P.R.I.D.E. — problem solver, respectful, invested, determined, and employable,” said Auld. “Through this program, we are creating the next generation of leaders and employees in our community.” She said a reward day trip is being planned for all students who quality for Comet Pride.
Harding High School, $1,260 for Art of the Book: Paper Marbling, a bookmaking experience for grades 9-12. Visual Art teacher Adam Hanke applied for a TEACH grant because the bookmaking and paper marbling process requires a number of supplies, many of which cost more than the annual art budget allows.
“Most people take books for granted,” said Hanke. “I want to change this mindset. This grant will expand my department’s ability to provide a bookmaking experience for my students and put a handmade book in their grasp that is both a work of art and an appreciation for the history of bookmaking.”
Marion Preparatory Academy, $1,250 for Middle School Science supplies. Having just completed her first year at Marion Prep as a middle school science teacher, Kelly Crosby said she has made it a priority to help build the available resources of the school. She applied for the grant to purchase lab equipment for the school’s grades 6-8 students, including scales, test tubes, flasks, graduated cylinders, and safety goggles.
Pleasant Elementary School, $782 for Student-Led Podcasting. According to teacher Lesley Conway, this podcasting project will “empower students to transition their learning to become producers of knowledge.”
Through podcasting, Conway said, students in her Idea Lab will learn to think critically about current events, develop opinions, support claims, and communicate their ideas respectfully.
“Podcasting encourages inquiry and critical thinking skills and improves communication skills to support speaking and listening standards,” she said, “and is a popular media tool that most students are familiar with.”
Pleasant Middle School, $886 for STEM Materials. Teacher Jocelyn Stout intends to use the grant to purchase and provide materials for cross-curricular projects encompassing multiple subject areas and support the 6th grade students’ understanding of how different subjects connect with each other.
According to Stout, the purchase of STEM materials will enable Pleasant’s 6th grade staff to work together to integrate knowledge and skills from various subject areas through more complex and multidisciplinary projects and encourage students’ autonomous learning, independent research, teamwork, and critical thinking skills.
Ridgedale Jr./Sr. High School, $2,500 for “From At-Risk to Leadership,” to support the Family, Career, and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Project at the school.
The application was submitted by teacher Lori Grieshop for the Career-Based Intervention class. She initiated Ridgedale’s membership in FCCLA in October 2021. Since then, students have participated in the program locally, including projects addressing driving safety issues at the school, but have been unable to attend regional programs and competitions due to lack of funding. Grieshop said the goal of FCCLA is to give leadership opportunities to students who are financially and/or academically at-risk of not graduating high school and the grant will help expand this valuable program.
River Valley Liberty Elementary, $1,000 for Hands-On Engaging Learning Supplies. Fifth grade teacher Bethany Ross will use the grant to provide Liberty’s fifth grade students with unique hands-on lessons and projects.
“I have transformed my classroom into a crime scene to review math concepts, an operating room to teach order of operations, a cafe to learn about different book genres, a construction site to practice measurement and complete various STEM activities,” she said. “Students are engaged and excited about their learning during these types of lessons and this grant will enable me to continue to do so.”
River Valley Middle School, $1,250 for Viking Store. An 8-member teacher team is developing a reward “store” at the school to motivate 6th grade students’ positive behaviors and academic achievements.
The teachers piloted the program this academic year by awarding Viking Dollars to students to demonstrate that good work and behaviors are valued. According to teacher Abby Songer, Viking Dollars help keep students on track academically and behaviorally, while also keeping students who traditionally do well encouraged and rewarded.
“The store serves as something positive and exciting for the students to look forward to,” said Songer. “We seem to focus on negative behaviors and often try to intervene or remediate with those students, but those who consistently do their best are neglected. This program takes both scenarios into account.”
In addition to Songer, the Viking Store team includes include teachers Melissa Cheney, Missy Smith, Kathy McGuirk, Karen Frericks, Rachel Hawerlander, Angie Beekman, and Angie Lavery.
St. Mary School, $2,474 for STEAM. Teacher Emily Crabtree will use the grant to purchase a class set of SPIKE Essential Primary Education Lego Resources. These materials will be used to strengthen instruction in STEAM fields – science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics – for the school’s 3rd and 4th grade students.
“Strengthening instruction in STEAM is a priority for St. Mary School as our enrollment grows and we look to expand our academic programs,” said principal Jared Tedrick. “Our school serves a large population of Hispanic students (44%), many of whom do not speak English when they first arrive. The more tools we have to engage these students right away, the more likely we are to convince them to love learning. We believe that our students should be wellprepared for 21st century jobs and lifelong learning, while receiving a traditional Catholic education.”
According to Dean Jacob, President and CEO of Marion Community Foundation, the TEACH Grant program is designed to help teachers launch innovative and motivational ideas that may go unfunded because of a school’s tight budget. “As a former teacher myself, I know that classroom teachers have great ideas and creative solutions to meet their students’ needs,” he said.
A four-person committee of community leaders served as the selection committee and made recommendations for the 2022 Marion County TEACH Grant awards. It was promoted to Marion City, Pleasant, River Valley, Ridgedale, and Elgin, as well as private schools in the county and is supported by local donors such as Pillar Credit Union and school alumni.
“Pillar Credit Union is vested in the communities they serve,” said Jacob. “They spearheaded the TEACH Grants Program in Marion and were joined by the River Valley Teachers Fund and Ray & Charlotte Baldauf Fund in providing financial support.”
The goal of the TEACH Grants Program is to support local teachers’ ideas to make area classrooms interesting, stimulating, and impactful for students. The TEACH Grants Program provides funding to teachers, or small teams of classroom teachers, to foster and develop programs, projects, events, or lessons through a competitive application process held each February. Awards are announced in May for the following academic year.