Teachers put grants to work | SierraSun.com

Teachers put grants to work

Andrew Cristancho
Sierra Sun

Seth Lightcap/Sierra SunTruckee Elementary fourth grade teacher Mike Franey discusses story plot with Kevin Cross, 10, Hana Schlang, 10, Natalie Seelenfreund, 9, and Dylan Zellers, 9, in his classroom Friday. Franey was awarded one of the Excellence In Education foundation's Linda Brown Fellows Awards and used his $2,000 grant to purchase books for the school library.

Mike Franey is the type of teacher that can make homework fun for his fourth graders while increasing their understanding of the material.

Last week as he moved about his classroom, listening to his 9- and 10-year-olds ask each other about the plot, character and other aspects of books they read for their weekly book club meeting, he spurred the grade-schoolers on.

“Did you ask good questions?” Franey asked, reminding them to probe deep into the subject matter.

The students read a book a month, and when asked, the clusters of two, three and four students will all blurt out at once how many pages per night that equals.

Franey, who has taught at Truckee Elementary for 13 years, bought many of the book sets the students are reading this year with money he was awarded by the Excellence in Education Foundation. The more than 15 brand-new sets are now part of the Truckee Elementary School’s permanent library collection.

“I just noticed there was a need,” he said. “I found some of the avid readers had already read the available books.”

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Franey was one of five teachers in local school district awarded the Linda Brown Fellows Award by the education foundation for the 2007-08 school year.

The award carries with it public recognition, $2,000 for educational use and $1,000 for the teacher’s personal use. Franey, a Verdi resident, said the main award bought the books. After that money was gone, he used his personal allowance to buy some games to use on rainy days. He spent the remainder of his personal allowance making his car commute-ready, buying new tires and paying down the bill for past repairs.

The program, named after former teacher and past foundation president Linda Brown, is an opportunity for community members to nominate teachers for excellent work in the classroom that demonstrates “originality, innovation and dedication to the teaching profession that is above and beyond the normally high standards of the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District,” according to foundation Executive Director Laura Abbey Brown.

The deadline for the 2008-09 school year nominations is May 9.

Officials at the education foundation have added a $1,000 award for the 2008-09 school year for district support staff, Brown said.

In order to help the English learners at her school, Kings Beach Two-way Immersion teacher Julie Miescke said she will be purchasing a set of Rosetta Stone English language kits for use by anyone in the student body.

Building a ropes course for district use is what North Tahoe Middle School math and science teacher Lindee Eckert said she will spend her award on.

Other fellows for the present school year included Glenshire Elementary school fifth-grade teacher Maggie Bockius, and Truckee High School’s Fine Arts teacher Dave Green.

Meanwhile inside Franey’s classroom, Lizzie Larkins, 9, asked her peers many pointed questions about the book, “The Lemonade War,” and then remembered an inspirational insight that “Mr. Franey” passed on to the class.

A man remembered back when he was a boy, that every day upon returning home from school his mother would not ask “how was your day,” like the other mothers, but would ask, “did you ask any good questions today?” said Larkins.

The man was a Nobel Peace Prize-winning physicist, Franey said.