On September 7, the EducateSRQ Teacher Grant application window closed, and our selection committee has started reading all the 239 proposals submitted by our teachers. It’s an exciting, inspiring time for us, reading and awarding these grants. Last year was especially heartening, as the pandemic has created so many challenges in the classroom—and so much anxiety amongst our students. When it would have been enough to just conduct lessons in person and via Zoom, masked and distanced, teachers did more to engage kids with hands-on learning and ensure their students stayed connected and accessed needed resources.
At Gulf Gate Elementary School, kindergarten students explored the lives of bugs. Through a grant titled “Nothing’s Bugging Us! We are Entomologists!,” teacher Karen Korzecki introduced her students to life cycles and insect identification. The hands-on experience, which involved an ant farm, a butterfly habitat, and a ladybug garden, engaged students in multiple subject areas such as math, science, art, and writing. Over a four-week period, Ms. Korzecki’s students had opportunities to express their learning through multiple mediums. They recorded observations in journals, created an art project, used math in collecting data, and much more. Of the experience, Ms. Korzecki noted, “Their love of learning blossomed. They were so motivated by the insect unit that the activities continued for over a month and a half!”
At Booker Middle School, Sergio Acerb found out that nearly half of his students in his orchestra program would be studying remotely. He was able to borrow orchestra instruments from a nearby elementary school, but many of the instruments had no strings. In a project, he called “With All Strings Attached: Teaching Remote Learners Music through Orchestra,” Sergio was able to purchase strings for the instruments to ensure his students could continue to practice and connect with their peers via music.
In a grant titled “From Stage to Zoom: Performances in the Time of a Pandemic,” Woodland Middle School teacher Gina Barber was able to purchase scripts and performance rights for Zoom virtual performances for her theater classes. The theater program had been unable to perform the final show the previous year because of the shutdown, a tremendous disappointment for her students. Gina wanted to ensure her students, even those studying remotely had the important outlet of drama. She wanted them to experience learning as close to a pre-Covid level as possible. Students were able to act out scenes remotely and learn through engaging in the dramas she was able to provide them. While many of these students were miles from school and from each other, they connected around a love of theater.
Dance teacher Heather Nelson, at North Port High School, wanted to ensure that all her students, no matter their economic circumstances, could participate in her Ballet and Dance Techniques class. The required traditional dance class dress code includes a leotard, dance tights, and jazz or ballet shoes. The minimum cost per student for one set of basic dancewear for daily practice is approximately $60 – 70, a prohibitive amount for many of Heather’s students. With her EducateSRQ teacher grant titled “Dressed to Dance,” Heather was able to purchase dance apparel that enabled her students to move with a full range of motion, and she was able to observe their movements to ensure proper alignment and execution. With these outfits, students did not have to share, which improved safety during the pandemic, and they were empowered to focus on dance.
These are just a few of the many ways that our teachers did all they could to enhance lessons and provide valuable resources to students during the pandemic. With their grants, teachers were able to keep alive the love of learning during such a stressful time. We’re excited to read about all the amazing opportunities that will happen this year, and we are grateful for the donor support that makes all these grants possible.