The total amount awarded was approximately $49,179. This is a more than $9,000 increase over last year’s total of $40,000. BCPEF Executive Director Lynn Voelz said she hopes to see the amount distributed continue to grow in the coming years.
According to Voelz, the mini-grants increase the effectiveness of teachers by increasing their available resources.
“We are providing a resource so that student learning is enhanced,” Voelz said. “We all benefit from an educated community. There is no doubt about that.”
Final submissions for the mini-grants are made in September. Teachers have the opportunity to either write an individual or team grant. One teacher can be awarded up to $1,000 for an individual grant. Two to four teachers may request up to $5,000 through a team grant.
There were a total of 52 grant submissions this year. This is less than half of the 108 submitted last year. Voelz said the difference is most likely twofold: a change in teacher needs and the option of a team grant.
She initially suggested the team grant option to the Education Family Committee and system principals when she noticed the number of teachers writing individual grants for the same project.
A total of eight team grants were awarded in the Cleveland and Bradley County school systems. Bradley teachers were awarded five team grants for a total of $18,982. Cleveland teachers received $12,275 for three team grants.
An additional $17,922 was awarded to both school systems through the individual mini-grants. Bradley County teachers received a total of $9,407 for 11 grant proposals. The Cleveland City Schools system was awarded 8,514 for nine individual grants.
Every grant is reviewed and scored by a team of teachers who make up the Education Family Committee. The committee is formed with one teacher from every school in both systems. Proposals are ideally read by a teacher from the other school system. This means most city grants are read by county teachers and the same can be said for county grants.
The BCPEF grants committee will take then take the scores and proposals to make a final decision.
The grants have been awarded to teachers at all grade levels, from kindergarten to 12-grade.
Voelz is continually impressed by the work put forth by teachers for the grant proposals.
“When I see what they are willing to do to fund that enhanced learning experience for their students, I am moved,” Voelz said. “It is exciting. It is encouraging. I have two grandchildren in the schools and I have loved seeing the commitment of their teachers.”
She took a moment to highlight several of the grants awarded:
- Prospect Elementary School’s “FAB Friday — Leaving no brain behind!”
Students in need of help in math and literacy meet in the gymnasium every Friday for a variety of activities. Voelz said the program reinforces the fact the students are not alone in needing skills help. Participants engage in group work which is both competitive and noncompetitive.
- Cleveland Middle School’s “Cybrary Multi-Media Lab”
Published author and Cleveland City Schools teacher Grace M. Dyrek teamed up with fellow teacher Stephanie Stone to apply for a team grant. The focus will be on stimulating authorship in students in grades six through eight.
- Lake Forest Middle School’s “Lego Alliance”
Students will use Lego tools and toys to work on skills in science, technology, engineering and math. Voelz explained she was not immediately sold on the idea of middle school students using Legos in the classroom. However, she said she has since seen how challenging the mechanics can be for students.
- Cleveland High School’s “Prosthetic Engineering: Replace It!”
Students in Erin Hattabaugh’s class are using manual and mechanical engineering to develop functional prosthetic arms.
Voelz said she likes the concept of placing resources in the hands of the teachers who are doing the work and who know the needs of the students.
“I would love to say yes to every teacher,” Voelz said. “It is certainly our objective to increase the amount of grants we can award. That is where the power and effectiveness lie, in the classroom.”