2007-04-26 / Front Page

Foundation awards $20,000+ in grants to PAISD programs

BY DAN PARKER SOUTH JETTY REPORTER

One big check STAFF PHOTO BY DAN PARKER Port Aransas Education Foundation secretary Jana Snow presents Port Aransas High School teacher Pete Barello with a $2,500 check to help fund purchase of a Quizdom Interactive Learning System, which allows Power Point presentations to become interactive, encouraging student participation. One big check STAFF PHOTO BY DAN PARKER Port Aransas Education Foundation secretary Jana Snow presents Port Aransas High School teacher Pete Barello with a $2,500 check to help fund purchase of a Quizdom Interactive Learning System, which allows Power Point presentations to become interactive, encouraging student participation. The Port Aransas Education Foundation has announced 13 grant awards totaling more than $20,000 to pay for wide-ranging supplies and programs within the Port Aransas Independent School District.

The grants, announced on Friday, April 20, will pay for everything from electronic grading equipment at Port Aransas High School to a field trip to the Alamo for fourth graders studying Texas history.

The foundation is a local non-profit group established last fall to provide funds for supplies and functions not traditionally funded by school budgets. Foundation officials walked from classroom to classroom, surprising teachers and their students with oversize checks festooned with blue and white balloons.

"It was like my birthday and Christmas, and where was Ed McMahon?" said Jill Smith, a PAHS science teacher who won a $960 grant to get her students involved in a worldwide computer network involving 20,000 school children collaborating on science projects together.

STAFF PHOTO BY DAN PARKER Wow! Big bucks! H.G. Olsen Elementary School teacher Julie Findley shows some of her students a check representing a $1,213.94 grant she received from the Port Aransas Education Foundation. The grant will help Findley buy binoculars for science classes to do some bird watching. STAFF PHOTO BY DAN PARKER Wow! Big bucks! H.G. Olsen Elementary School teacher Julie Findley shows some of her students a check representing a $1,213.94 grant she received from the Port Aransas Education Foundation. The grant will help Findley buy binoculars for science classes to do some bird watching. "It was just such a great feeling," Smith said. "I took my check home and admired it all weekend. To know we have this broad base of support is just really empowering. They want to diversify these kids' experiences in life. They don't want it to be just reading, writing and arithmetic, as they used to say."

Teachers and other employees at PAISD applied for grants by filling out applications stating what sorts of projects or supplies they sought. The foundation's board of directors decided which applications would get funded in this round of grants, the first full round ever awarded by the still-young foundation.

The foundation has raised money for the grants through fundraisers and donations.

"I think that this first year showed us that we have a lot of potential - not only for our community, but for our schools as well, and that is for donations and grant requests," said Janice Roberts, president of the Foundation. "That proves to us this (foundation) is a great idea for our community and something the community can be proud of."

PAISD employees who won the grants and what they said about how the money will be spent are:

+ Peter Barello, teacher, PAHS, $2,500 to help purchase Quizdom Interactive Learning System - electronic equipment that allows PowerPoint presentations in class to become interactive with students. The school will supply about $1,300 for the rest of the cost of the system, said PAHS Principal Travis Longanecker.

+Claudia Locher, teacher, PAHS, $1,537.98 to provide sewing equipment and supplies for high school students to learn more about sewing. Several students meet regularly with Locher for lessons in sewing and cooking even though a formal homemaking course is not currently available.

+Leif Johnson, PAHS teacher, $1206.75 to buy a Scantron - electronic equipment that grades tests much more quickly than teachers can by hand. The machine, which will be available to all PAHS teachers, is expected to give teachers more time to spend with students.

+Jill B. Smith, PAHS teacher, $960 to get students involved in iEARN - a worldwide computer network involving school children in 115 nations collaborating on science projects together. The grant money will pay a membership fee in the collaborative; a 45-hour online course Smith will take to learn how to guide students through the network; and materials and supplies.

+Monica Sonnier, PAHS teacher, $895.97 for a digital camera for yearbook production.

+Coleen Gartman, director of district cafeteria services, $1,850 to increase offerings of fresh fruit and vegetables and expand nutrition education throughout PAISD.

+Gay de Montel, music teacher, H.G. Olsen Elementary School, $2,205 to buy 16 percussion instruments for a music program called D.R.U.M. -- Discipline, Respect, and Unity through Music. The students currently have only three drums.

+Marilyn Cook, teacher, Olsen Elementary, $1,500 for tuition to attend a week-long course at The Learning Center in Austin and do a one-year follow-up mostly online. The course teaches a process for evaluating students who struggle with learning. Students are taught to recognize their particular strengths and use those strengths to build on as they work on their weaknesses.

+Julie Findley, teacher, Olsen Elementary, $1,213.94 to help buy highquality binoculars for science classes in the third through fifth grades. The binoculars are to be used for field trips for students to participate in the Great Texas Birding classic. Matching funds from the company that provides the binoculars means a total of 12 binoculars will be purchased.

+Rhonda Burger, teacher, Olsen Elementary, $2,167.98 to buy the 2 Elmo TT-02 Teachers Tool - electronic equipment that creates a three-dimensional screen presentation that explains lessons more clearly than a regular overhead projector.

+Clare L. Adams, teacher, Olsen Elementary, $1,557 so 36 fourth graders studying Texas history can take a trip to the Alamo in San Antonio. The trip will include a visit to an IMAX theater.

+Ginny Shaw, pre-kindergarten teacher, Olsen Elementary, $1,700 for a 77-inch interactive whiteboard for pre-K students. Students can write and draw on the whiteboard with an electronic pen. Results immediately are entered in a computer's memory.

+Shaw also received $1,200 for online training to help get a certification to teach students to be more proficient with computers. Shaw also will be able to advise fellow teachers on computer use in classroom lessons. Shaw already has spent $600 of her own money for two such courses she has taken.

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