Financial grants over the last three years to teachers and staff members of the Shenandoah Community Schools, provided by the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation to enhance the learning experiences of students, now total more than $13,000 after the spring 2020 grants have been determined.
The latest grants are supporting teachers and students in a variety of areas. While some will need to be postponed – because of the pandemic-forced closure of schools -- others are fulfilled.
Grants to teachers from the Shenandoah Iowa Education Foundation have been used in elementary, middle and high school classrooms.
The idea behind the foundation grants, which started out in January 2017 with $250 awards, was to help teachers pay for classroom “extras” that were beyond normal budget support. They've been awarded twice per year, in fall and spring semesters.
In November, 2018, the grants were increased to $500 each. In addition, during the celebration of American Education Week each year, the foundation gives a $250 grant to the teacher-of-the-year and $100 to the teaching associate-of-the-year.
“It will be a grand day when we can fund even more and we are moving in that direction, said Star Ann Kloberdanz, who serves on the education foundation’s scholarship & grants committee. “What we’ve been able to do in a relatively short period of time is impressive, thanks to a lot of people,” specifically the donors to the foundation.
Here are the grants awarded this spring, and remember, the use of some of these will now be extended into the future:
--Ashleigh Sons planned a middle school musical and requested funds from the education foundation to help start a middle school theater program. She wants to build on the success of the high school program by working with middle school students well. “Theater helps us see a different perspective from our own,” Sons explained. “Theater also promotes us to give power to truth, to take risks, and to advocate for new and diverse voices.” The family of the late Isabelle Spears donated memorial money in her honor, and the foundation views this grant as a way to honor her interest in music and the fine arts.
--Tahrae Bonnes and the other teachers in the preschool program are working to help these three- and four-year olds develop a range of developmental skills. These learners are experiencing many new situations. One such skill is learning how to manage frustration. The preschool staff requested “Calm Down” kits. As was stated in their grant application, “Helping our young children figure out positive ways to handle their big emotions will inevitable benefit them as they continue their educational journey. School doesn’t get easier as they get older, but hopefully they can use these skills that we strive to teach them every day, to help them stay calm in times of stress.”
--The education foundation has funded several grants involving robotics at the middle and high school levels. Brett Roberts sponsors the “Ten 80 Racing Team” and once again, they qualified for the national finals in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. They hoped to expand the educational experience by stopping at the Kennedy Space Center. This stop is an opportunity for students to “to experience the fields of science, math and history that would take them beyond their classrooms, offering them an expanded perspective in areas of discovery and exploration.” Students are fund raising to help cover additional costs.
--Another project the foundation has previously funded is the Iowa State Bar Association Mock Trial Competition in Mason City. Students participating in this program gain leadership skills. They also increase “comprehension of our judicial system by developing a broader understanding of the operations of law, court procedures and the legal system,” as the application said. Teacher Kyan Kirkholm observes the changes in students as they prepare for this competition. “They take it seriously when preparing and talk like lawyers and witnesses,” he said.
--The high school will offer a new science elective, “Hands on Zoology,” for the 2020-’21 school year. In explaining the purpose of this course, Alisha Fleck states, “students can have hands on application dissection of different animals and learning about general zoology practices used in a variety of career fields such as naturalists, zoologist, wildlife biologist, DNR rangers, DNR fisheries and other career fields of interest to students outside of veterinary medicine and human anatomy.” The foundation is helping purchase materials to implement this new course.
The foundation is thankful for the generosity of our donors that make it possible to support these educators and their students.