South Whidbey teachers get grants for innovative classroom projects

South Whidbey Schools Foundation board members Wendy Baesler (left), Chris Gibson and Jean Shaw present a $1,000 grant to Langley Middle School teacher Rachel Kizer earlier this month.   - Photo courtesy of Lisa Bjork
South Whidbey Schools Foundation board members Wendy Baesler (left), Chris Gibson and Jean Shaw present a $1,000 grant to Langley Middle School teacher Rachel Kizer earlier this month.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Lisa Bjork

Innovation is its own reward, but it’s nice to get a little money, too.

Sixteen local teachers received grants totaling nearly $10,000 this year from the South Whidbey Schools Foundation, a local nonprofit organization dedicated to the improvement of education in the South Whidbey School District.

“There was really an interesting variety of subject areas and age levels this year,” said Lisa Bjork of Greenbank, president of the foundation’s board.

“It shows that a little seed money allows a teacher to do something quite different,” Bjork said Monday.

Grants ranging from $119 to several of $1,000 each were awarded to help fund classroom projects. The money was granted on the basis of proposals submitted to the foundation by teachers in the school district.

Bjork and SWSF board members Chris Gibson, Wendy Baesler and Jean Shaw presented the awards — and balloons — during surprise visits to classrooms earlier this month.

“It was great to see the reactions of the teachers and the kids,” Bjork said.

The smallest award, $119, went to South Whidbey Elementary School teacher Danielle Curgis, who had a plan to teach her young students through the use of radio plays they would write themselves.

“All she wanted was a microphone,” Bjork said. “It’s an interesting idea. It’s a way to make a whole other thing happen.”

Another grant went toward Val Twomey’s plan to teach second-graders to learn about mechanics, inventions and problem-solving by taking toys apart and putting them back together.

Middle school teacher Rachel Kizer wanted to assist seventh-grade study of language arts by using new technologies such as Amazon’s Kindle and the Apple iPod. She was awarded $1,000 for her project.

South Whidbey High School teacher Doug Fulton was awarded a grant to buy two spectrophotometers for use by physics, physical science and chemistry students.

Other local educators who received 2010 Teacher Innovation awards from the foundation are Jay Fruendlich, Dayle Gray, Jennifer Gouchanour, Mary McLeod, Susan Milan, Kimmer Morris, Charlene Ray, Sue Rottkay, Michelle Sakagushi and David Pfeiffer, Craig Stelling and Don Zisette.

Elementary school teacher Kathy Stanley received this year’s grant from Puget Sound Energy, $450 for a solar oven, which her students will use for cooking projects. PSE annually awards grants for school projects that support the study of sustainability, Bjork said.

South Whidbey Schools Foundation has disbursed hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants since it was established in 1994, Bjork said.

Funds this year were raised through donations and at a fundraising gala at Useless Bay Golf & Country Club in May.

Bjork said fundraising will begin soon for next year’s awards, and that another fundraising gala will be held next May at Useless Bay.

“It’s vitally important in this time of budget cuts that people continue to support the good education kids are getting in the district,” Bjork said.

For more information about the foundation, visit www.southwhidbeyschools

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