Education foundation awards grants for teacher projects

Newly formed Katy ISD Education Foundation awarded its first batch of grants after just a few months of fundraising. A total of 117 KISD teachers received grants for various projects, which added up to $87,000.

"The grants we chose to fund really met our ideals, which are to inspire imagination," Foundation President Chris Crockett said.

Teachers could submit applications until April 1, and the 30-member foundation board then divided into teams to review the blind applications—meaning the school names were omitted. Applications were studied and graded, and each team reviewed seven to eight submissions.

Grants were awarded across subjects and helped fund projects such as Kathleen Haymes who teaches English language and reading at Morton Ranch Junior High.

Her grant, titled "Kire for Reading," requested 10 Kindle Fires to be split between her and a colleague to use as a reading tool in small group settings. At Morton Ranch Junior High, classes are structured in blocks giving Haymes 90 minutes to teach reading and writing to her students. She said she spends some time in whole-group instruction as well as in small-group instruction to focus on specific students and their needs.

"We were thinking, especially for students who struggle, technology is a great way to sucker them in—if you will—to reading more," Haymes said. "It also helps if you do not understand a word. Most kids just skip it and move on because they don't want to look it up in a dictionary. On the Kindle, you can look it up digitally."

The tablets will hopefully promote increased understanding of grammar and vocabulary expansion, Haymes said, and will eliminate the possibility of a student feeling embarrassed that he or she has to get up and use a dictionary in front of his or her peers.

Haymes' experiment will act as a pilot program to test if the tablets would be effective if utilized school wide.

Teachers will receive the funds from their grants through the expense system already used by schools, Crockett said, to ensure a check and balance system.

The foundation is gearing up to fundraise for its next cycle of grants, which it hopes to award every year in May so teachers can implement their program in the fall, said Janet Theis, administrative liaison for the foundation.

"[Fundraising] exceeded our expectations," Theis said. "We launched the application process at the same time we started fundraising efforts in full faith the number would work out, and it did."

Out of 45 applications received, only three were not accepted because certain requirements were not met.