(Asheville, NC) "Move that bus!" says Kate Pett, Executive Director of Asheville City Schools Foundation (ACSF). The “bus” is actually her family’s minivan that the staff of ACSF has piled in to distribute over $80,000 in grant awards to teachers in every school in the Asheville City School district. “Teachers are faced with innumerable challenges at the start of this school year from increased class sizes and the removal of teachers’ aides to the elimination of tenure and raises for teachers with Masters Degrees. With all of this on their plate, they still are tasked with the highest mission of all-educating our children. They more than earn their paycheck and we are proud to award 70 teachers grants to improve learning in their classrooms.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary for ACSF, which exists to serve all children in the Asheville City School district with an excellent and equitable education. The ACSF promotes research-based best practices in education through grants to district teachers. With this funding, teachers can pursue professional development, pay for materials for innovative classroom projects, invite professional teaching artists into their classrooms, and pursue creative strategies for promoting student success. Effective teaching is one of the key factors in student success. Supporting and championing public education will give children the best chance to become well rounded individuals who can overcome life’s adversities and ultimately prepare them for success in school and life.
Spotlight on Teacher Grant Awards:
Asheville teacher Kelsey Duffy of Isaac Dickson Elementary is teaming up with teachers Jerome Hughes and Pam Pauly from Asheville High School for Project Inspire: Creating Connections of Success between African American Students at IDES and Asheville High School. Duffy says, “This project would introduce students in elementary school to someone they can look up to, who has overcome similar life challenges, who has achieved success both in and out of the classroom, and who are college-bound.” Project Inspire will motivate the younger students to learn the “hidden rules of the middle class” and provide mentorship opportunities for the high school students.
Second graders at Ira B. Jones Elementary will enjoy a new weather station thanks to teachers Robin Wells and Travis Roland who will receive the Duke Energy Progress Education and Conservation Grant. They recognized that in order for their students to excel at the science curriculum, they would need hands-on experience with a variety of weather instruments. The weather station would provide day-to-day exposure to a variety of weather instruments on the K-2 playground as well as state-of-the-art transmission of data into the 2nd grade classrooms for detailed weather analysis.
The William Randolph School is using funds to start, operate, and maintain a student-run school store. Students will go through all of the requisite steps when opening a business, including creating the concept statement, conducting a feasibility study, writing a detailed business plan, figuring out all of the logistics for the store, and finally implementing all of their plans. The school store will serve all students of the William Randolph School. Over 80% of the students are low-income. It provides students an opportunity to learn entrepreneurial skills, group problem-solving and effective decision-making and to apply what students learn in the classroom to a real world situation.
Mary Taylor Elston saw an opportunity at Asheville Middle School to improve the science program. She has taken on the challenge of reorganizing the entire science curriculum to an inquiry-based science instruction model that continues to emphasize the literacy components that will strengthen the response to the Common Core 6-12 Literacy Standards in Science and Technical Subjects. To make sure that every student throughout the school has the opportunity to participate in differentiated, inquiry-based science, in the initial stages, this grant will result in the development of a series of lessons to be used at each grade level, in each science class. Elston says, “Moving to an inquiry-based model will help to better engage all of our students, but especially those from populations traditionally underserved in the gifted population and struggling readers.”
Grants are still available for teachers and classrooms this year and ACSF expects to award over $20,000 additional funds in the coming months. One such grant program is TAPAS (Teaching Artists Presenting in Asheville Schools) and the applications are due September 20, 2013. The TAPAS directory is filled with trained local artists who can perform in school residencies that tie the arts with various required state curricula that teachers need to cover. In a community filled with great artists, our classrooms should be filled with the artistry for which Asheville is known, and every student should have access to learning with artists. The TAPAS Catalogue is available online at www.acsf.org.