Enhancing education: Teacher grants boost classroom environment, learning

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As Westfield Education Foundation Executive Director Jan Skinner made her way around various Westfield Washington Schools classrooms, she was accompanied by green balloons and Supt. Sherry Grate. Skinner was congratulating teachers for receiving grants through the WEF. As she informed each, she was met with reactions of surprise and delight.

“You’re always excited and always humbled by the opportunity,” said Brandi Gorak, a Westfield Intermediate School teacher who teaches technology and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to fifth- and sixth-grade students. “You never expect it. You don’t know how many people you are competing against.”

Gorak, paired with fellow teacher Shawn Davis, received two grants. One grant, Field of Dreams, will allow for the purchase of robot competition fields and competition cubes. The other, STEM Learning: Sky’s the Limit, allows for the purchase of six robots. Kids will learn basic coding, then work in groups to code robots to move. The lesson will be embedded in school curriculum.

In total, Gorak has received seven grants through the years from the WEF.

“I am very humbled by it and just excited because this is my passion, and with the STEM addition to technology, I am able to do more in this classroom,” she said. “It allows me to purchase all kinds of fun things for these kids to engage in.”

Teachers from all Westfield Washington Schools applied for grants. The WEF awarded $6,139.74, totaling eight teacher grants. Teachers selected for this round of grants were Gorak, Davis, Sawyer Beier, April LaRosa, Jan Brill, Yvette Coverdale, Christian Horner, Michael Marley and Kevin Morse. Some teachers paired upfor the grants.

“We have another seven grants that scored very high we would really like to be able to fund, but we need an additional $5,500,” Skinner said.

Those additional funds will come from the upcoming Harlem Wizards basketball game, an annual fundraiser for the foundation.

“These seven additional grants are contingent upon having a great turnout to the Harlem Wizards game,” Skinner said.

The WEF will know within a couple of days after the game if profits are high enough to fund more grants. Teachers will be notified before winter break if their grants were funded.

The WEF provides grants every year. The application window opens each year when school starts and closes Oct. 1. If interested, email the WEF at foundation@wws.k12.in.us for application criteria.

There were three grant sponsors for the recent teacher grants. They include Allegion Company, the Westfield Lions Club and Teachers Credit Union of Westfield. In addition to awarding grants, the WEF also provides college scholarships to students and organizes fundraisers throughout the year, such as the annual Underground Railroad Run and more.

Harlem Wizards vs. WWS Staff to fundraise for education

From 3 to 5 p.m. Dec. 3 at Westfield High School, 18250 N. Union St., Westfield Washington Schools staff members will play against  the Harlem Wizards basketball team. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Westfield Education Foundation, which allows for WWS teacher grants and student scholarships.

“It’s guaranteed to be a fun evening for the whole family,” Westfield Education Foundation Executive Director Jan Skinner said. “All ages will be entertained by the basketball tricks from the Harlem Wizards as they take on our WWS principals, teachers and staff.”

Doors open at 2 p.m. General admission tickets are $10 and $15 at the door. Reserved, center court seating is $20 and courtside-plus seating, which includes a courtside seat, a meet-and-greet with the Harlem Wizards, pizza, soda and more, is $35. Concessions will be sold by the WHS boys basketball team. Harlem Wizards souvenirs will be available for purchase.

Tickets can be purchased at any WWS building, by calling 317-867-8085 or at harlemwizards.com.

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