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Copperas Cove Education Foundation distributes nearly $30,000 in Teacher Innovation Grants


Cove Leader-Press


Silly string flew through the air over the heads of excited teachers and students Tuesday morning as the Copperas Cove Education Foundation Prize Patrol delivered the good news to teachers and staff at four campuses that their Teacher Innovation Grant requests had been funded. 

The Copperas Cove Education Foundation awarded $29,950 in grants this year to 21 teachers/principals/staff members at four schools: Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy, Clements/Parsons Elementary, Martin Walker Elementary and Copperas Cove High School. 

Armed with noise makers, clappers and silly string, members of the foundation rode on a blue activity bus from campus to campus to deliver the news and present a large check to each group. 

The grants for Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy include Books for Buddies, the Wheel Deal, Books and Beyond and Hot Dots for Learning. 

The Books for Buddies grant, proposed by Kirk Balk and Brandy Olivares (Petty), is for $1,316.90 and will “encourage, reward, and strengthen the practice of independent reading for students who have approached or are already meeting that developmental milestone. This program will also promote family engagement as the students and parents read the books together and complete log sheets.”

Balk and Olivares were ecstatic to receive their grant.  

“We thought Books for Buddies would be an interesting grant because we are teaching the students our letters and sounds right now, but along with learning letters and sounds you have sight words as students learn, and Mrs. Olivares and I thought about an idea to help maybe get kids to read a little bit more,” Balk said. “You know, Pre-K is more than just you know, playing games and so forth. We are teaching these students to read to get them Kinder-ready, so the purpose of this grant is to purchase readers that are more a beginning level reading, and we feel we’re going to have a quite a few students who are able to really be beginning readers by the time they reach kindergarten.”

The Wheel Deal grant, proposed by Leah Miller and Olivares, is for $16,506.52, and will “introduce age-appropriate exercise equipment to students that will foster the development of motor skills while providing children with disabilities the ability to participate with their typically developing peers through inclusive practices.”

Mae Stevens Early Learning Academy is currently undergoing construction and renovations o expand the campus for more students. As a result, the campus lost the blacktop where the students had been able to ride on the tricycle track and refine their gross and fine motor skills, according to Miller. 

“When we knew we were going to lose that, we decided we’ve got to figure out what we can do because we want to teach the whole child,” Miller said. “Literacy is the most important thing to us, but also preparing kids socially, emotionally, and making sure that they’re able to get along, and one of the ways that they can do that is by the trike track where they learn good habits of letting people in, letting people out. There’s all kinds of things we can teach with that while we work on their gross motor skills.”

Also proposed by Miller and Olivares, Books and Beyond, for $3,144.42, will “encourage, reward and strengthen the practice of reading for pleasure, as well as foster relationships among family members at home with students through literacy. 

Miller said that this program will put books in the hands of children who are able to take them home and grow their home library without worrying about losing the books. 

“We don’t worry about the books,” Miller said. “If they get messed up, that’s okay because they’re being used for the purpose of the love of reading.”

Hot Dots for Learning, proposed by teacher Vanessa Sims, is worth $5,385 and will provide students with interactive materials to facilitate the learning of letters, letter sounds, rhyming, and beginning to read. 

At Clements/Parsons Elementary, Kindergarten teachers Patricia Bigford, Kristina Straley, Denise Smith, Kathryn Akui, Alyssa Cox, Rebecca De Los Santos, and Zuheila Babilonia received a grant for $1,200 to use for the Dan St. Romain Positive Behavior Lessons and Songs. This program uses instruction and songs to teach social, emotional, and ethical lessons. These lessons use literature to help teach the lessons that focus on positive behavior. Approximately 160 students will benefit from this program.

The campus’ Student to Student (S2S) program received a grant for $300. This program is typically geared to military students who may experience multiple transitions during their school years, but it also helps ensure all students on the campus feel connected and welcomed.  The S2S program ensures all students; especially out new students have an instant friend, a peer they can rely on. 

At Martin Walker Elementary, students will learn about health and hygiene and hydration thanks to a $500 grant requested by teacher Hillary Newton. This grant will be used to promote healthy behavior by practicing appropriate hygiene habits, practicing behaviors that prevent illnesses and practicing behaviors that promote mental and emotional wellbeing for student in grades 3 through 5. Water bottles and hygiene items will be provided to help promote the healthy behaviors learned in this program.

Newton, along with teachers Alisha Miller and Candice Kelly, also requested a grant for $300 for the Student 2 Student Welcome Bags. Students will create welcome bags be given by the student leaders to new students during their campus tour. The bags will include items such as water bottles, stress balls, and snacks.

At Copperas Cove High School, Senior English teachers Megan Clark, Christine Slinger, Jenny Sanchez, Julie Thorpe and David Woodward requested a grant worth $1,297.20 to purchase copies of the book “Sanctuary” by Paola Mendoza, which will be used in the Social Issues in Literature Novel Study program. Students will be exposed to contemporary, diverse literature and will work on proposal writing, argumentative thinking/debates, characterization, plot development, and inferencing skills. This program is something that the teachers had piloted last year, and it was well received by the students, but they did not have the copies of the books to provide to every student. 

Education Foundation President Etta Kay Kirkpatrick said that the foundation ‘s selection committee selects the grant winners anonymously. 

The grant application process opens up in the Spring/Summer every year. Teachers submit the grant request for a project that they think will have an impact and be innovative, Kirkpatrick said 

“What we’re trying to do is promote excellence in education, so that in our whole goal is to impact students,” Kirkpatrick said. “Of course, that impacts teachers because they are the ones who are choosing how they’re going to go about using whatever it is that they apply for.”

The committee will grade and weight and scale the different requests to determine which ones to fund. 

“We look at the need as far as what they think the need is for what they are asking for, how many students it is going to impact and how it might be different from what they’ve done before,” Kirkpatrick added. 

Since 2008, every school in CCISD has received at least one grant, according to Kirkpatrick. 

Kirkpatrick said that it is wonderful getting to share who won their grant. 

“One of my favorite things is the day that we give grants is to see the joy with the teachers, their excitement, tears sometimes, lots of laughing,” Kirkpatrick said. “The students get very excited, even when we go to the Pre-K, and they don’t know why we’re there, but they know they’re getting something because they’re so joyful. Young children are just so joyful. This is just one of my favorite things- that and doing the awards and recognition of our graduating seniors in the spring.” 

The total amount of grants awarded from 2008 through 2021 is $432,791.

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