Great teachers inspire their students, but many times, teachers find themselves inspired by their students. Thurston Middle School Health and PE teacher and Ecology Club mentor Penny Herrick-Dressler is one teacher who recognized a need amongst her students and was inspired to act upon it. “The Healthy Kids Survey shows us that our student body is experiencing stress,” she explains. “That stress is negatively impacting other areas of their lives.” Through a discussion with her Ecology Club students, Herrick-Dressler developed the idea to create the “Away Place,” an outdoor space on the Thurston campus where students can sit by themselves or gather with a few others to have a bit of quiet time, and she explains, “to use the healing properties of nature to address student stress.” She decided the best way to make this idea a reality was to apply for a SchoolPower Endowment Teacher Grant.

Every year, the SchoolPower Endowment Fund awards inspired teachers like Herrick-Dressler grant money so they can put their ideas into action. At the LBUSD School Board meeting on May 28, the Endowment awarded $111,450.14 to fund 18 diverse teacher grants with requests ranging from equipment such as Swift coding robots, learning garden structures, and kindergarten playground equipment to curriculum programs such as the Homework, Organization and Planning Skills (HOPS) Intervention Program, DNA analysis tools, and art museum field trips. “Teacher Grants are a favorite program of SchoolPower Endowment because the requests come directly from our educators at all four schools in the district,” explains SchoolPower Endowment president Chris Clark. “The Endowment’s goals for Teacher Grants are to inspire excellence in teaching by funding educators’ ideas for innovative teaching methods and tools that might not otherwise be possible.”

One such innovative teacher is El Morro science teacher Kathleen Margaretich, whose grants for an expansion of the El Morro STEAM lab materials and the creation of an outdoor classroom will enable students to explore authentic science activities at stations anytime. “Much of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is about habitats and how animals use their external parts to survive in their habitats,” she says, adding, “Instead of doing some labs in the classroom, it is better to do them out in nature.”

The benefits of the teacher grant program frequently extend beyond a single teacher’s classroom. The Thurston PE department has taken this approach with its use of Garmin technology to inspire personal fitness in the entire middle school student body.

“Last year’s grant of Garmin watches has allowed our PE students to use real-time tracking of their pace, distance, and progress towards personal goals,” says PE teacher Steve Lalim. “We use them for our weekly two-mile cardio workout and to ensure accountability and accuracy in games like soccer and capture the flag.” The Garmin tools have been so successful that the middle school PE department applied for a 2019 grant of 50 additional watches to allow each teacher a class set. “The Garmin watches are the best investment we’ve ever made as a department, “ says Lalim. “They inspire students to be more active, engaged, and aware of their activity level.”

Because of the Teacher Grant program, teachers know their ideas can be realized. “The grants have allowed me to dream beyond the curriculum and think beyond the standards,” says Margaretich. “The El Morro STEAM lab has become a state-of-the-art science room and program due to El Morro, PTA, and SchoolPower contributions.”

Herrick-Dressler echoes Margaretich’s sentiments, stating, “Over the many years I have taught at Thurston, I have been fortunate to have the help of SchoolPower Endowment funding. SchoolPower has supported the grants I wrote for our PE department’s climbing wall and Project Adventure equipment and training. I am thrilled SchoolPower has chosen to fund this Ecology Club project, as the Away Place will be a space for all students!”

2019 Teacher Grants

El Morro Elementary

STEAM Lab Materials Including Kind Fur Swatches, Animal Skull Replicas and Alternative Energy Lab Kits
$12,395.27 for 3 grants
Jacquie Cohn & Kathleen Margaretich
Materials to support NGSS across all elementary grade levels.

Outdoor Extension of STEAM Classroom
Kathleen Margaretich
Authentic exploration activities that students can explore at stations anytime, outside the STEAM classroom.

Greenhouse and Shed for El Morro Learning Garden
Christine Wagner, Kim Krause, Nicole Stewart, Cama Stevens, Annie Bochenek, Greg Togawa
New, needed structures, coinciding with expansion and redesign of the garden space.

Top of the World Elementary

STEAM Lab Materials Including Kind Fur Swatches, Animal Skull Replicas and Alternative Energy Lab Kits
$12,395.27 for 3 grants
Jacquie Cohn & Kathleen Margaretich
Materials to support NGSS across all elementary grade levels.

STEAM Mobile Magnet Wall & Engineering Blocks for Kindergarten Playground
Mariah Holliday
Exploration and imaginative play materials for the Kindergarten playground to support problem solving, collaboration, and investigation of engineering, cause/effect, and motion and stability.

Let’s Boogie! Individual LCD Writing Pads
Katie Dwight, Marie Bammer, Kari Damato & Maryann Thomas
LCD writing pads that will allow students to jot notes and show work, replacing current use of the whiteboards at student desks.

Osmo Sets for Kindergarten Classrooms
Rosie Haynes, Megan Bartlett, Brooke Bismack, Jenny Carlson, & Lorraine Winokur
Ten Osmo sets for each classroom (to be used with district-provided iPads). The Osmo set includes a base station and manipulatives that children use to enhance skills in writing, reading, math, engineering, and computer science.

Controlled Text Readers for Reading Intervention Program
Livi Marshall & Pam Howland
Controlled text readers to provide beginning and struggling readers with opportunities to transfer phonics knowledge to meaningful, engaging, and complex fiction, informational texts, and poetry.

Thurston Middle School

50 Garmin Watches
Mike Bair, Steve Lalim, Wendy Hughes, Carrie Leventhal & Penny Dressler
50 additional Garmin watches to enable PE teachers to have a class set. The watches allow PE students to track their pace and distance, and keep students more active and engaged as they work toward personal goals and are accountable for their own activity level.

Show Kit & Musical Rights for 6th & 7th Grade Drama
Alexis Karol & Roxanna Ward
Purchase of materials and rights for one kids musical, for the length of one school year for use by all 6th and 7th grade drama students.

Homework, Organization and Planning Skills (HOPS) Intervention Program
Amanda Vander Veen
Kick off funding for tier 2 intervention program that provides supports and resources for students struggling with organization and time management (including student with deficits in attention).

Two Swift Coding Robots
Andy Crisp
Two different types of robots that are programmable with Swift to perform a variety of functions. To be used with all 6th grade computer students.

Away Place on Campus
Penny Herrick-Dressler
Creation of an “Away Place” on campus where students can sit by themselves or gather with a few others to have a bit of quiet time and de-stress.

Laguna Beach High School

Art Museum Field Trips for AP Art History
Heather Hanson
Funds to travel to seven different important art museums in alignment with the units of study for AP Art History.

Real Deal Blue DNA for Science Classes
Alonda Hartford & Jennifer Park
Classroom set (10) of Blue Gel electrophoresis and mini-PCR machines for students to use to visualize their own DNA in real time.

Supplemental Yoga Equipment
Lance Neal & Scott Finn
Supplemental yoga tools to develop a more well-rounded yoga practice that will help with mindfulness, relaxation and concentration.

Sparta Science Force Plate
Lance Neal
The ability to track and improve the physical body function of all students in LBUSD with appropriate, data-driven exercise prescriptions with the goal of maximizing athletic performance and reducing the risk of sports injury.