District leaders and Waxahachie ISD Education Foundation members awarded seven grants Thursday afternoon totaling over $11,753 to teachers to implement their fresh take on teaching

The grant recipients were surprised on their respective campuses Thursday, March 22 with large checks and a round of applause.

Three teachers from Northside and Shackelford Elementary Schools applied for over 30 Osmo Genius devices. All together, they were awarded $2,799 for the technology. The Osmo Genius offers electronic learning games that also require physical materials to play along.

Leslie Jurkash, a kindergarten teacher at Northside, said she discovered the device through a training seminar she attended recently.

"I really like how Osmo Genius connects hands-on activities with technology,” Jurkash explained. “Getting my grant funded means that my kids will get to experience an engaging, fun, hands-on approach to learning that they otherwise would not have received."

Kindergarten teacher at Marvin Elementary, Brittnie Hall, applied for a $699 grant for a TechnoGarten. This technology transforms a plain whiteboard into an interactive touchscreen. Hall said this aspect helps make learning meaningful and engaging.

“When we as teachers effectively engage students with technology in subject areas, teaching improvement grows and student achievement grows,” Hall explained. “I am beyond thankful for the Education Foundation for allowing me to engage my students even more.”

At Finley Junior High School, Kishmi Davis was awarded $3,527 for iWrite Virtually eXperinces. This includes headsets and headphones that allow students to escape and experience situations and cultures they can inquire in their writing.

When Davis was surprised in her classroom, she proudly held the check above her head and chanted to her students, “We got the money.”

"This program allows students to virtually experience places and situations that they wouldn’t normally be able to experience like traveling into space or going back to a historical moment," Davis explained. "Afterwards, they will write and incorporate the knowledge that they obtained from the virtual experience into their responses and essays."

For Kim Raney, a kindergarten at Wedgeworth Elementary School, it was her first time to apply for the grant. She was awarded $267 to implement flexible seating in her classroom.

“I let the students choose every day where they want to sit as long as they are working. The first week I let every student try out all the flexible seating options so they can see what works best for them,” Raney said.

“I have found that letting the students sit where it is comfortable for them, keeps their attention more focused on me and teaches them to have control over their learning environment,” she added.

So far, Raney’s classroom provides a variety of flexible seating from two mini trampolines, four bouncy balls, two benches, a rocking chair, two floor desks, two smaller desks, a regular bench chair, a table with two tires, two bean bags and two standard desks. This grant will go toward the purchase of lap desks.

At Global High School, audio and production instructor, Stephen Martell, was awarded $3,500 to purchase high-quality cameras, microphones, audio and production accessories. So far, Martell’s class has produced radio dramas and promotional videos.

Upcoming projects will now include honing skills with DSLR cameras and high-quality recording devices.

"As we prepare our students for tomorrow’s workforce and or to further their education, it is incumbent on us as educators to make sure our students know how to communicate effectively in a professional environment,” Martell elaborated. “Presentation skills are a key part of that communication. Having quality audio/video equipment available for them to use will help students develop these valuable communication skills necessary for these careers while displaying their individual creativity.”

“Those students are actually going to make a promotional video for the foundation as a thank you,” Waxahachie ISD Director of Public Relations Bridges elaborated.

Lastly, at Clift Elementary School, two teachers, Mandy Allen and Haley Gilmore, were awarded $962 for the before-school program “Books, Braids and Bowties.” Teachers style students’ hair and dress them in a tie every Tuesday and Thursday morning. The program was implemented through the campus-wide program, “Capturing Kids Hearts,” which provides a progressive change in student and staff morale.

"This funding will help us buy more supplies such as bows, brushes, ties, hair ties, combs, perfume, cologne and hair conditioning spray as well as books to give away to students who frequently visit our program on Tuesday and Thursday mornings," Allen explained. "We want to reward the students who come and read with us often with a scholastic book. Thanks again for being interested in our program."

Each year, the Education Foundation gives approximately $60,000 to the district through the innovative project teaching grants and to dual credit at the high school level. Fundraising events such as the Legacy Run in the fall and the Legacy Classic Golf Tournament in the spring help to supply the foundation with the needed money.

“The education foundation is the main reason why we raise funds to give grants to teachers for innovative classroom projects or campus-wide projects,” Bridges said.

Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450