The ability for local students to have such advanced learning opportunities has been enhanced by private funding sources obtained through the work of the Bradley/Cleveland Public Education Foundation.
Lynn Voelz, executive director of the foundation, spoke to the Rotary Club of Cleveland Tuesday and brought along one of the teachers who is, along with her students, benefitting from those extra funds.
“The foundation brings private dollars into education for innovation in the classroom,” Voelz said. “Without these private dollars, there would be a big hole in funding in our classrooms.”
She said she is “constantly astounded” at what the teachers in both the Cleveland and Bradley County school systems do with the funding the foundation provides.
“We are based on the philosophy that an educated public is absolutely critical for a healthy community,” Voelz said. “The country was founded on the idea that without an educated community, democracy will not work.”
She said the efforts she makes as the foundation’s director “are really almost insignificant compared to what the teachers are doing on a daily basis.”
The foundation also supports teachers with professional development opportunities.
During the school year just concluded, the foundation has provided grants to fund 20 projects throughout the two systems.
The foundation was able to acquire a $40,000 grant from the Fund for Teachers, which funded nine teachers’ ability to travel all over the world on journeys designed to enhance their classroom effectiveness and subject expertise.
Erin Hattabaugh of the Cleveland High School Science team spoke of her experiences.
She has received BCPEF grants for four years and her students have garnered national engineering awards.
She teaches anatomy, physiology and biomedical engineering.
“I firmly believe there is no excuse for not doing what you want to do,” Hattabaugh said. “I might hear fellow teachers complain about not having enough money, but it’s out there and they need to find it.
“Over the last 14 years, I have written and been awarded over $368,000 in grants that directly affected my students,” she said.
She said she believes her job is to “help students find their way.”
Hattabaugh said grants from the foundation have funded classes on biowarfare after 9/11 as well as experiments to see how drugs affect small organisms’ nervous systems “in the hopes they would see” how it might affect their own systems.
She also purchased a book by a professional cyclist who had suffered a brain trauma and had not been expected to live.
“The students read it and he came and spoke to them several times and he sends them video messages when I need him to,” Hattabaugh said.
She said her classes have designed orthopedic implants, created functional heart models and functional prosthetics that can both throw and catch a ball.
“I like for the engineering students to experience the joy of helping someone,” Hattabaugh said. “For me as a teacher, that’s why I like my job.”