Teacher grants making a difference for Truckee students | SierraSun.com

Teacher grants making a difference for Truckee students

Shelly Purdy
Special to the Sun

TRUCKEE, Calif. — All parents hopes their child will think of school as a fun and engaging place to learn. But with video games, TV and movies all vying for kids' attention, capturing a student's interest can be a difficult challenge for teachers.

That's where a little bit of creativity on the part of the teacher and financial assistance on the part of the Excellence in Education Foundation can really make a difference.

Since 1991, the Foundation has been offering small grants to teachers to help fund their creative ideas. The grants pay for materials, special programs, new technology and other items that individual teachers use to engage and excite their students.

Over just the past three years at Truckee Elementary, individual teachers have been granted nearly $25,000 in small amounts ranging from $100 to $3,500 to fund their unique ideas and programs.

One such idea was a grant for a program called "A PENfriend for Kindergarten." This new and innovative technology allows teachers to record their voice onto little stickers.

The teachers can record instructions for a task, feedback on a project, directions for a game or independent or group work. Just about anything can be recorded onto a little sticker, and the students can listen to the recording by scanning the sticker with the pen.

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The pens and stickers are small for little hands. They are innovative new technology and engage students to do their work in a totally new and fun way. The teachers are using PENfriends across the curriculum to help students with math, reading, science, social studies, writing and English learning development (ELD).

Teacher Ashley Staron, who wrote the grant for PENfriends, says the program has been a huge success

"The pens have really helped the students at Truckee Elementary meet their learning expectations in a new, very fun and interactive way," she said.

While new technology is always fun and exciting, some of the grants that have made a big impact on students are more "old school" in nature.

Any parent who has dealt with a wiggly kid during homework time knows how tough it can be to get students to focus their attention for a specific task.

That's where T-Stools and Time Timers come into play. In 2012, Resource Specialist Katie Old wrote a grant for T-Stools and Time Timers for fourth- and fifth-graders at Truckee Elementary.

The T-Stools are one-legged balance stools that work particularly well for wiggly kids who need help in developing sitting balance, focused attention, trunk/strength control and body awareness.

The Time Timers provide a visual countdown of time to help students understand the concept of the passage of time. Students who need additional help with time management or organizational skills really benefit from the Time Timers.

"The timers provide students with a visual representation of elapsed time. It really helps to give them a clear idea of when a task needs to be completed and how long it takes to do that task," says Old. "Both the T-Stools and Time Timers have helped immensely with students who need to learn more focus and self control."

Over the past 25 years, the Excellence in Education Foundation has awarded more than $2.8 million in grants to individual teachers, schools and the Truckee Tahoe Unified School District.

Shelly Purdy is a board member for Excellence in Education Foundation. For information, visit http://www.exined.org.