Tracy Holland, a second-grade teacher at Norge Elementary School, woke up thinking Friday would be a day just like any other. She got dressed, headed to work and began teaching her students. However, her day ended up being very different. In the middle of class, Holland was swarmed by a group of people who handed her an oversized check and flowers. Shocked and excited, she posed for photos while her students looked up in awe.
While this sounds like a scene from Publishers Clearing House, it was actually the award presentation for W-JCC Schools Foundation’s Innovative Learning Grants.
The Innovative Learning Grants are given to teachers to help promote and fund a higher level of teaching and education. Teachers create proposals for grants, which they send to the WJCC Schools Foundation. If chosen, grant recipients are given up to $2,000 to implement their proposals. The money is given under the condition it is only used for the recipient’s proposed idea.
These grants provide unique learning opportunities for students and teachers that schools otherwise would not have the funds for. Monica Schauffler and Amy Wallisch, repeat grant winners and librarians at Lafayette High School, said their past grants gave them the ability to purchase 3D printers and augmented reality glasses for students to use. Schauffler said if it were not for the grants, this technology would have been out of reach for the school’s budget.
“I’m so excited. It’s so great not to have $800 come out of (my) pocket,” grant winner Kimberley Hundley, a teacher at Stonehouse Elementary said. She and Dawn Padden collaborated on a grant to create STEM-based table-top activities for kindergartners.
“That’s what this is all about. Getting money into the classroom to encourage innovation,” said Clarence Wilson, president of the WJCC Schools Foundation. “There are some really, really great projects this year.”
Checks were delivered to the grant winners by WJCC Schools Foundation donors. They traveled the county in two school buses and burst into classrooms with checks and flowers.
“I work with a lot of volunteer groups and you don’t always see where your money is going, so this is a fun event where everyone can see where their money is going,” said Julie Hummel, a School Board member representing Williamsburg.
The donors were met with curiosity from the moment they walked into a school. Students stuck their faces against cafeteria windows and arched their necks to watch the group of about 20 people walk down the hall. Often walking with school mascots or cheerleaders, it was a hard sight to ignore.
“Are we going be on the news?” a Norge student from Kimberly Holloway’s class asked.
None of the teachers were told beforehand, making the check presentations a surprise.
Jamile Collins and Holland were caught in their P.J.’s since it was Norge’s pajama day. Although, “(Pajama day) makes everything 10 times better,” a student in Holland’s class said.
This year, 26 grants were given to 44 W-JCC faculty members from 13 schools, totaling $39,333.13. Over the years, Wilson said more than $94,000 has been raised for 68 grants.
The winning grants
Connecting Families, Students and Classroom through Technology: Allison Cobb, Clara Byrd Baker Elementary School
With SeeSaw, each student will have their own digital portfolio and have the ability to "show their learning" by posting videos, photos, drawings, text, PDFs, and links. SeeSaw allows both teachers and parents to view and comment on posts in the student’s portfolio.
Wiggle to Learn: Jessica Chrismon and Jessica Workinger, Clara Byrd Elementary School
Hokki stools are ergonomic seats that enable students to keep moving while sitting still and allow better attention and focus for learning.
Creating the Constitution! Escape Room Challenge!: Evan Pfeiffer, Hornsby Middle School
Work with Room Escape of Williamsburg to design a civics-related escape room that focuses on the creation of the U.S. Constitution.
Learning to Code with LittleBits: Cheryl Holzschuh, JB Blayton Elementary School
With LittleBits coding platforms, students will use color-coded, magnetic, reusable building blocks to solve problems by creating new, useful or imaginative solutions.
Classroom Calming Corners: Darcie Badami and Jennifer Smith, James River Elementary School
Thirty-three classroom “calming corners” for students will provide a safe place to manage emotions, such as frustration, that may otherwise escalate and lead to disruptive behaviors, which interfere with student learning. Calming corners may include: plastic baskets, wooden clipboards, vinyl beanbag chairs and stress balls.
Creating Characters through Costumes: Harvey Stone, Jamestown High School
Creating costume idea boards and executing costume/accessory designs is expensive. This project will allow students enrolled in Musical Theatre and Technical Theatre courses to create, pitch and ultimately execute designs for costumes and/or costume accessories.
Learning in the Third Dimension: Patricia Habersham and Amanda Morris, Jamestown High School
This grant funds a 3-D scanner that attaches to any iPad. It can be used to scan and create 3-D images as well as augment reality. Student applications include virtual travel to Rome, rain forest exploration, 3-D-printed models of ancient fossils and even digital dissections.
La Comunidad Latina y Nosotros: Alisa Smith, Jamestown High School and Kimberly Smith, Matoaka Elementary School
The multi-cultural language program will connect elementary and high school students through the study of bilingual books and prepare them for a community workshop targeting at-risk Latino students in our schools.
Interactive VR Monica: Schauffler and Amy Wallisch, Lafayette High School
With HTC VIVE, an interactive virtual reality system, students will be able to create life-size designs and virtual environments created either from their imagination or from historical locations.
Men of Vision and Purpose: William Capers Jr., Archie Jefferson and Andre McLaughlin, Lafayette High School
Men of Vision and Purpose (MVP), is a male mentoring program that provides comprehensive activities that promote personal development, academic improvement, confidence, self-discipline and drive for our male students.
Adjustable Learning — Modern Classrooms for Modern Students: Amelie Smucker, Laurel Lane Elementary School
The purchase of height-adjustable tables will accommodate students' various sizes and sitting needs throughout the day to support their posture and enhance learning.
Building Up and Letting Off STEAM: Lisa Smith, Laurel Lane Elementary School
This project will address the before and after of STEAM by providing sets of nonfiction texts matched to STEAM challenges, which will be used as tools for building background knowledge prior to experimentation. It will also provide professional materials for use by teachers as they guide students in writing about and presenting the results of their investigations after experiments.
Code Songs of the Underground Railroad and Today: Gia Chambers, Helen McClain and Rebecca Watkins, Laurel Lane Elementary School
This multi-grade level collaborative project combines music, history and technology. It will begin with an interactive school-wide presentation of code music during the 1800s, and then individual classes will work with volunteers from the College of William and Mary to combine computer programming concepts with various musical elements to create and record new, original music using code.
Coding to Learn and Achieve Great Educational Outcomes: Sue Sydow, Matoaka Elementary School
This grant funds 33 licenses for CodeConduct, an intense, simulated game experience and self-paced approaches to projects through which students learn the fundamentals of coding skills.
Young Minds Can Code: Katie Knaul and Sue Sydow, Matoaka Elementary School
This grant funds Club Packs of 3 Dash and 2 Dot Robots. These robots can be used to accomplish specific tasks to which young learners can relate, allowing them an early experience in learning to code.
Growing Math Minds for Dreambox: Tiffany Lindfors, Matthew Whaley Elementary
With additional iPads, teachers can set up technology centers to move more students more frequently through the division-provided, personalized computer adaptive program, Dreambox, each day.
Junior Engineering: Debbie Besnier, Diana Linkenauger and Kris Van Deusen, Matthew Whaley Elementary
The creation of a mobile STEM classroom, with the use of organized, subject-specific STEM containers, will infuse engineering into all subjects and allow students to develop creative solutions to STEM problems, either individually or collaboratively.
Language Discovery Boxes: Anya Bobrinskaya and Ann Colorado, Matthew Whaley Elementary
The creation of four Language Discovery Boxes for English Learner Newcomers to use each day in class will focus on building academic and social language in a fun, hands-on, interactive way.
Success for All: Bryan Cole, Matthew Whaley Elementary
This project will provide iPad minis for five English language learners and/or students reading at least one year below grade level. Using iPad minis to read ebooks and have other meaningful learning experiences will allow these students to improve their reading skills.
Cycle to Success: Carmen Gaten, Stonehouse Elementary School
The Desk Cycle provides students with the opportunity to stay physically active while completing their work, promoting attention to classwork and ensuring success.
“Stems” in the “Kindergarden” – Watch Creative Minds Grow: Kimberley Hundley and Dawn Padden, Stonehouse Elementary School
Aztec blocks, tinker toys and other STEM-based manipulative will allow students to work individually and in groups to develop life-long skills at an early age.
Making Makers: STEM and the Future of Innovation: Jamie Collins, Norge Elementary School
Incorporating technology and robotics into the engineering process challenges students in ways that the SOL curriculum does not. Access to iPad presentation apps will provide students with real-world experience.
Working as a T.E.A.M.: Tracy Holland, Norge Elementary School
With the "T.E.A.M. Bag" (Together Everyone Achieves More) program, all second-grade students will be provided the supplies needed to strengthen their skills at home, strengthening the connection between home and school.
Learning French through Interactive Story Time: Anne Mapp, Toano Middle School
Storytelling is a key factor in teaching language and culture. By providing appealing French-language books, students can read, act and build upon the stories in order to learn a second language in a variety of engaging ways.
Too Big, Too Small … “Just Right” Reading Massage Chair Program: Terri Seward, Toano Middle School
Struggling readers, who rarely spend time in a library and may avoid reading time, will be scheduled for reading chair sessions twice a week and be given support to access reading resources beyond the school day.
Seeing is Believing: Virtual Reality in the Classroom: John Aughenbaugh, Tiffany Cannon, Matt Lichtel, Nicole Throckmorton and Lois Wine, Warhill High School
Through virtual reality students will be able to visit content in a 3-D environment, with the feeling that they are in a real place, imagining they are walking through a Shakespeare set.
Amelia Heymann can be reached by email at email@example.com, or on twitter @HeymannAmelia.