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Posted: May 28, 2013 9:00 p.m.

Foundation awards grants to teachers

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An extra fundraiser allowed the Newton Education Foundation to award four grants to teachers.

Four teachers will share $5,000 in grants from the Newton Education Foundation — a local, independent, non-profit corporation founded to create a culture of support for public education — as part of NEF’s annual Re-Imagine Newton fundraising campaign.

Recipients in the Spring 2013 Classroom Grant Competition included Oak Hill Elementary teacher Jeff Johnson, for his "Math, Music & Movies" program; Indian Creek Middle School teacher Lori McGovern, for her "Bringing the 21st Century Library to Life" project; Newton County Theme School at Ficquett teacher Kena Hudgins for her project, "Math in My World"; and Newton College and Career Academy teacher Kemily Pattillo for her project, "Biotechnology: Bacterial Transformation."

Shannon Davis of the Education Foundation awarded the grants to the teachers at the May 21 Newton County Board of Education meeting.

According to a news release, the Foundation announced that it would fund grants at each school level in April. Any Newton County School System teacher could apply for the grants, which can be used to pay for a wide variety of innovative instructional projects and materials.

Davis said the Foundation received 25 applications from teachers in the NCSS. All of the applicants were "extremely impressive," she said, and Jami Berry, grant sub-committee member, and other committee members had a hard time choosing this year’s winners.

Davis said normally the organization selects three winners, but this year had the opportunity to select four because NEF held an additional fundraiser, The Pancake Stampede 5K Run, in February.

"The funded grants will touch hundreds of students at four schools across all three educational levels," Berry said. "We were especially excited to be able to fund four grants rather than three because we know that doing so allows even more teachers and schools to integrate innovative approaches into their instructional practices."

Hudgins, grant recipient at Newton County Theme School at Ficquett, explained that the funds will be used to obtain five iPads for use in the sixth-grade math classes and by other students at the school.

"The iPads will be used for project-based instruction and will allow students to build knowledge and understanding through conceptualized problem-solving tasks," she said. "The project [incorporates] iPad applications that will be used as students analyze and classify shapes in a real-world setting and apply their knowledge by creatAing comic strips, Prezis (a presentation tool that helps you organize and share your ideas), and scaled models."

Hudgins said the entire school will be impacted, since as iPad presentations are shown on the school news program. She added that the iPads also will be used in language arts to build reading fluency in below-grade-level readers using the "K12 timed reading practice" application.

At Oak Hill Elementary, music teacher Johnson said the grant will allow him to combine the arts, academics and technology. His program, "Math, Music & Movies," is designed to teach, support and reinforce math standards associated with the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards for first- graders.

"First-grade students will be guided as they produce and record original music videos using the iPad app "Splice," Johnson said. "Teams of students will discuss [math] standards and critical vocabulary as they work together using props to create their video productions."

Pattillo, at the Newton College & Career Academy, said the "Biotechnology: Bacterial Transformation" program deals with genetically modifying bacteria using small, circular pieces of DNA called plasmids. The grant will allow students to work in a lab, creating bacteria that are resistant to a particular class of antibiotics, Pattillo explained.

"This is exciting because students usually do not get to do this type of lab work until college," Pattillo said.

McGovern said her grant will be used to add eBooks to the Indian Creek Media Center, creating a Twenty-First century book collection that will be exciting and appealing to students.

"Students will consider a wide variety of criteria for book selection, generate a master list for purchase recommendation to the media specialist and members of the school media committee, and then promote the new collection with a special contest," she said.

McGovern explained the eBooks will promote literacy and student reading engagement.

NEF was founded in 2009 with a goal to raise private dollars for public education, specifically educators. The organization’s annual campaign, Re-Imagine Newton, is continuous throughout the year and helps to fund future grant programs.

Tax-deductible donations can be made at any time by mail to: The Newton Education Foundation, P.O. Box 1586, Covington, Ga. 30015. More information about NEF can be found online by visiting reimaginenewton.org.

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