BCPEF president Rebecca McIntire thanked the donors and said the foundation seeks to support education through private donations and grants.
“The local school systems should be supported to the extent that they can focus exclusively on teaching our kids,” McIntire said. “This year we have given over 60 grants both large and small in the (totaling more than) $150,000 that has been pledged and contributed this year to local classrooms
Donors present were able to see their dollars at work as students from George R. Stuart Elementary of Cleveland City Schools and Valley View Elementary of Bradley County Schools presented information they had learned through grant-funded programs.
Mini-grants to specific classrooms are one way the foundation provides funding to teachers.
Stuart Elementary kindergarten teachers Grace Averitt and Rebecca Link with a group of students introduced those present to the Starfall program which they purchased with combined mini-grants.
“We started this project because we knew there was going to be a big change in the standards and we are a fairly young kindergarten team. We knew we would not only have to work together, but also find some wonderful resources to help us integrate and do everything that Common Core says we need to do,” Averitt said
The solution was the subscription-based website Starfall and reading curriculum.
Averitt said the program is research-based and helps students become ready to read at a quicker and more proficient pace. Stuffed animals help the students learn vowel sounds and are featured in books in the series. The website also allows students to interact with the information. Writing and forming sentences is also emphasized.
Link said each letter also has a song that helps students learn their letters and sounds.
Teachers Brandi Beard and Natalie Killian also benefitted from the grant.
The program aligns with common core standards by incorporating nonfiction books.
Valley View Elementary School teacher Chrystal Stallings used funds from the foundation to host a leadership fair at the school. Students presented two sample displays from the fair highlighting George Washington and Dr. Charles Drew who initially researched the blood bank concept.
“We used what we were able to get with the grant to show and tell about things that pertain to certain leaders in different areas of life, whether it be the military, education, medicine, advances in technology, different areas like that,” Stallings said.
The grant allowed classes to purchase costumes and props to enhance their presentation.
The fair was just one aspect of the systemwide “Leaders for Life: Voyage to Greatness” initiative that was started with funding from the foundation. The initiative was developed by Bradley County Schools supervisor for elementary education Sheena Newman.
Also during the luncheon Jason Dasher, a social studies and science teacher at E.L. Ross Elementary School, said the iPads purchased for the school from foundation funding have been a great asset. Dasher said the iPads allow his students to do research in class more efficiently without the hassle of scheduling a time in the computer lab.
He said even the games can be a useful educational tool.
“There are kids that can be motivated by those games that you cannot motivate with anything else. So for some kids that aspect of it helps the education part because they are willing to do just about anything to get to that game time, and it’s a 10-minute game time,” Dasher said.
The school has enough iPads that every student in two classes can have an individual device. The devices rotate from class to class. Principal Lisa Earby said the school has also implemented a community classroom approach, which has students more involved in learning and working in teams.
Cleveland High School teachers Erin Hattabaugh, Alicia Lowe and Andi Wendorf shared how funding from the foundation has allowed for technology advances in the science and health science classes. The latest addition in the science classes allows students to text questions to the teacher unanimously. Wendorf said the devices were better than using a smart phone because it limited the students to only class work responses.