By Jo Mathis
AAPS District News Editor
Like a big red bow on a holiday gift, the Ann Arbor Public Schools Educational Foundation’s Teacher Grants enhance the AAPS experience.
Thanks to the foundation’s donation of $17,000 for nine projects, students throughout the district will benefit from new books, video equipment, art supplies, a mentoring program, college visits and kindergarten assessments.
The 15-member foundation committee gave monetary awards to nine of the 100 applications received from AAPS teachers. Money for these grants—which support new ideas, projects, and approaches to education—comes from donations towards the AAPSEF annual fund, and donor-established funds.
In the last two years, the foundation has awarded more than $100,000 in educator grants ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 each.
Mitchell Elementary Assistant Principal Matt Hilton says the entire school is thrilled to receive $5,000 from the Karen Thomas Fund for new IB materials.
“It will positively impact our library as well as allow us to purchase materials that are directly related to the IB units of inquiry that teachers are currently writing,” he said.
Teacher Wendy Rothman, who applied for the grant with media specialist Janet Duncan, said their application was heart-felt, and expressed a desire to give students a global experience through reading.
“Just the IB program alone is such an honor, to invest in this corridor, and in our kids at Mitchell, Scarlett and Huron,” she said. “This grant is an added bonus to give kids access to the world in many different ways.”
The Karen Thomas Fund provides grants for projects and programs that encourage and promote literacy, support academic retention programs, and augment reading materials in elementary school media centers.
This fund was established in 2008 following the death of local writer Karen Thomas, who for 38 years was married to Trustee Andy Thomas.
Thomas said his late wife believed that reading is not simply a necessity, but a key to success in life, and a joy.
“It’s a real tribute to her and what she would have wanted,” he said. “She was passionate about reading. It wasn’t enough for her that everyone should know how to read. She wanted people to love reading and to read for enjoyment. So anything we can to do pass on that passion for reading.”
Thomas said he loves the Elizabeth Hardwick quote on a plaque in the Burns Park media center that says: “Love of reading is the greatest gift.”
“That’s what we’re trying to do here,” said Thomas.
Melissa Poli was happy to tell her dance students at Community High School about the $1600 grant, which will pay for video capturing equipment and timestamp commenting software. The equipment will capture and replay a performance, creating a visual reference for critique and self-assessment.
“When they see themselves, it’s a teaching tool,” said Poli, adding that the ability to analyze and critique the dancers’ work is critical to their progression.
CHS Dean Marci Tuzinsky said the grant allows the school another way to allow students to self-evaluate and grow, which is a goal in every classroom.
“And to incorporate that into dance, you’ve got your art, you’ve got your physical space, you’ve got your technology. It’s just so cool.”
William Copeland and Musetta Deneen of Pathways to Success Academic Campus asked for a $2,000 grant to support Sankofa, a new youth empowerment program at the campus. The grant will help fund trips to college campuses, and students will return to present their experiences to other Pathways students.
“Oftentimes our students have a really close connection with Washtenaw Community College,” said Deneen, “and we really want to expand their options for post-high school and to let them know, if you want to get away for school, you can do that, and it doesn’t mean you have to go to a four-year institution. There are other places out there, other community colleges and vocational schools. We felt it was our responsibility to take them.”
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