BY Rob Glidden
The Southington Education Foundation handed out another round of grants last week, with over $12,000 in funding meant to make six unique teaching ideas possible.
The teachers behind the chosen proposals gathered at Derynoski Elementary School to accept their grants and publicly summarize their ideas.
“Choosing these was a difficult task because we had so many wonderful applications,” said Beth Pestillo, a member of the SEF’s executive board.
Mary Jane Sullivan, a music teacher at Strong Elementary School, was awarded a grant to purchase instruments for her “Ukulele Buddy” program. This program would teach third-graders the basics of the instrument and invite grandparents and other senior citizens to join in and play along.
Paula Gorham, an extended-day kindergarten teacher at South End and Kelley Elementary Schools, received a grant for her “Countdown to Kindergarten” proposal. She plans to assemble bags of materials and games for parents to help their children prepare for kindergarten. Parents could pick these bags up when registering their children and use them during the months leading up to the first day.
“I see kids come in and struggle with some basic concepts,” she said. “I always wanted to reach parents and tell them what they could do to help, so I came up with this idea.”
The ambitious “Hands-On Science and Technology: Producing Biofuel from Algae” was devised by a team of teachers from Southington High School, including Rich Niro, Dave Destephano, Jess Quinn, Sal Spagna, Justin Mirante, Patrick O’Keefe and Troy Schinkel. Students who participated would get a firsthand look at producing biofuels by growing algae and then going through the complex process of converting it into a resource that could power a vehicle.
“There are a lot of advantages to alternative energy, but it will show the kids how much work is also involved,” Spagna said.
DePaolo Middle School teacher Joanne Grant received funding for her “Student Savers” proposal, which would introduce students to the real-world necessities of managing money and dealing with banks.
Julie Zellner of Strong School was given a grant for a proposal called “Tying Together Oral Language, Literacy and the Common Core State Standards with Braidy.” The eponymous teaching tool is a stuffed toy meant to help kindergarteners learn a story and re-tell it themselves.
“It’s a very interactive visual and auditory experience for them,” Zellner said.
Deryonski teachers Michelle Ginand, William Walker and MaryBeth Eckert earned a grant with their “Young Artists and Entrepreneurs” proposal. This program gives students to check to create pottery and learn how to sell it the way a business would. Funds raised from the proceeds are intended to maintain the program and support charity.
“It’s wonderful,” Eckert said of receiving the grant. “I’m sure the students will really enjoy the project.”
The Southington Education Foundation was established in 2009 and gave out its first round of grants in 2010. In the years since, it has raised nearly $100,000 and funded 46 grants.
“It shows the support of this community and their belief in education,” said Town Councilor Dawn Miceli, the chairperson of the SEF’s board of directors. “At this point, you need a private stream of revenue to fund projects like this.”