11/14/13 — Teachers get grants

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Teachers get grants

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on November 14, 2013 1:46 PM

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Physical education teacher Joseph Durham receives a hug from Title 1 lead teacher Beverly Kee after being surprised with a mini-grant by the "prize patrol" from the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday at Fremont STARS Elementary School. Seven teachers at the school were awarded mini-grants: Durham, Susan Boswell, Jennifer Cooper, Kathy Davis, Camille Frederick, Tracy Pittman and Shalaunda Smith.

When Charles B. Aycock High School engineering teacher Steven Thorne noticed a group outside his classroom door with a bouquet of balloons Wednesday morning, he was not entirely surprised.

"Today was my birthday," he said.

But that was not the reason for interrupting his day's lesson.

The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce "prize patrol" was on the loose Wednesday, making surprise stops to distribute 19 mini-grants to area teachers in the community.

Wayne Education Network, or WEN, is the education arm of the chamber. For more than a decade, WEN-sponsored fundraisers like the Dancing Stars of Wayne County generated support to provide classroom projects not otherwise included in the schools' budget.

To date, more than $125,523 worth of mini-grants have been awarded, said Janet Brock of the chamber.

Forty-four applications were received for this year's round of grants, she said.

When all was said and done, $6,500 was awarded in the latest round of giveaways. Volunteers hand-delivered balloons and certificates as they told teachers that their activities and projects were being funded.

Judging is done anonymously -- without the name of the teacher or school. The bulk of this year's recipients were from the northern end of the county, with seven projects chosen from Fremont STARS Elementary School and three each from Charles B. Aycock High School and Northeast Elementary schools.

Ideas proposed ranged from following the life cycle of ants and training youth on robot design to building a model water treatment plant.

It was the third time one of Thorne's ideas netted a grant from the chamber.

The first, he recalled, was an after-school project using three items -- a leaf blower, a lawn chair and a piece of plywood -- in creating a hovercraft.

Last year's grant allowed his class to build a car out of PVC pipes. And now, thanks to the supplemental funding, he'll have students make a charger to charge the batteries for that car.

"I'm going to teach the students about solar energy," Thorne said. "Without these grants, I wouldn't be able to do those kinds of projects.

"That's what the kids like to do is those hands-on things, not just sit at their desks. That's what we try to use the money for."

Donna Countryman, an exceptional children's teacher at Northeast Elementary School, is also a repeat benefactor.

"This is my 10th year of teaching and I have won at least one every year, every time it's offered," she said.

It paid off again this year -- she put in requests for four projects and received the most of any teacher, with three.

"It's an excellent incentive because the budget is low and teachers do pay out of pocket," she said. "There's so many things you might want to do with your class but the funds aren't there."

Science has been a big push over the last couple of years, Mrs. Countryman said, so it became the focus of her project proposals.

"One is a time-lapse camera that will take pictures of butterflies coming out of the cocoon, which you couldn't see with the naked eye, or a plant growing," she said.

When five people arrived at her door, bearing balloons and announcing she had won three mini-grants, her students were almost as overjoyed as she was, she said.

"Kids were excited. They were clapping," she said.

It's rewarding to receive the unexpected money along with the go-ahead to do activities that wouldn't otherwise be possible, Mrs. Countryman said.

"If there's a desire to do something with your kids, you don't have the money to do it, it's not going to hurt to sit down and take a few minutes to write (a grant proposal)," she said.

Below is a list of teacher recipients and their projects:

Fremont STARS

*Susan Boswell, "How Will Our Garden Grow?"

*Jennifer Cooper, "The Hip Bone's Connected to the Thigh Bone"

*Kathy Davis, "The Kennel Club Pet Station"

*Joseph Durham, Golf "Fore" Life

*Camille Frederick, "I Am A Famous American"

*Tracy Pittman, "It Takes a Village"

*Shalaunda Smith, "See It Grow"

Charles B. Aycock

*Tammy Kunz, "Mitosis and Meiosis Simulation Kits" and "Water Treatment Activity"

*Steven Thorne, "Charging Up Education -- Using the Sun!"

Northeast Elementary

*Donna Countryman, "Watch Me Grow," "The Incredible Garden," and "Can We All Line in This World Together?"

Bright Beginnings Christian Center: Ashley Defeo, "Developing Skills through Family Involvement"

Carver Elementary: Debbie Hughes, "Fit at Four"

Carver Heights Elementary: "PARTNERS -- Parents Are Reading Teachers Nurturing Early Reading Skill"

Eastern Wayne Middle: Donna Lee, "A Science Lab"

Home School: Anne Finch, "Robotics"

Norwayne Middle: "Geared for Success with Solar Cars."