YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (Oct. 18, 2018) – The Turning Foundation, in partnership with The Raymond John Wean Foundation, has awarded 15 Innovative Teacher Mini-Grants to instructors in Ashtabula, Columbiana, Trumbull and Mahoning counties. Recipients will receive cash awards up to $5000, with a grand total of $50,885 impacting more than 7,300 students in PK-12 classrooms during the 2018-19 school year.

Applicants were required to align their projects with one of the four major goal areas of focus for the Eastern Ohio Education Partnership: kindergarten readiness, early grade reading proficiency, middle grade math proficiency and postsecondary/career readiness.

“This partnership with Turning Foundation and EOEP really represents our partnership with schools in practice. These projects are examples that teacher creativity and innovation drive learning. We salute teachers and their dedication to student success,” said President of the Wean Foundation Jennifer Roller.

John Wilson, director of the Turning Foundation, is likewise enthused about the funded projects, and looks forward to seeing the fruits of these collaborative endeavors.

“Every year it is a joy to give area teachers the tools they need to carry out their visions,” he said. “We received so many excellent applications, and I am excited to see how these projects help students achieve their potential.”

Boardman Local Schools, for example, is embarking on a project that combines international relations, cross-cultural collaboration and technology development – not areas typically associated with middle school students.

Select sixth and eighth graders will work with middle schoolers in Thailand to choose one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, which focus on areas including poverty, hunger, equality and the environment. The Boardman students will then create an app designed to educate other children their age about that goal and what they can do to help support it.

“The app-building process is something that we wanted to explore,” said Todd Smith, STEAM instruction coach at Boardman. “We always try to apply everything we do to a real-world application so that students understand why they’re learning this stuff.”

In addition to technical skills, the project has a wide range of goals for the students, including learning more about the design thinking process, working closely with local business leaders and developing a more global perspective.

“The one [goal] that comes to mind immediately is empathy, and that’s because they’re picking these UN sustainable goals that relate to issues that are going on in our country and their country,” said Tim Harker, technology teacher at Boardman Glenwood Junior High School and supervisor of the Boardman Makers Club.

While Smith is excited to get to work on the current project, he also has his eye toward the future.

“Down the road we’re hoping to make this open to more students,” he said. “This grant is going to allow us to give this a trial run and see if this is something that we can do and continually revise and improve on year after year.”

Winners of the Innovative Teacher Mini-Grants for the 2018-2019 school year are listed below. For more details about each project, click here.

  • Tracy Archuleta, Jefferson Senior High School, Jefferson Local Schools, for a cross-curricular makerspace that will allow students to explore academic content visually using technology to integrate aspects of design and, through hands-on processes and collaboration, to expand their knowledge of a variety of careers.
  • Kelly Fussner, Rayen Early College Middle School, Youngstown City Schools, for a project that lets students use the Aquaponics Indoor Gardening System to collect data on photosynthetic activity, measure plant growth, incorporate operations with decimals and percentages and analyze food production practice estimation techniques.
  • Stephanie Gilligan, McGuffey PK-8, Warren City Schools, for a program that incorporates dramatic play outside through the use of an outdoor mud kitchen in order for preschool students to extend their oral language development and social emotional learning beyond the classroom while having fun interacting with their peers and learning through exploration.
  • Carole Goffus, Willard PK-8, Warren City Schools, for “The Branches Program,” which helps students retained due to the Ohio Third Grade Reading Guarantee. Branches Leaders (6th-8th graders) will be trained to help their Branches buddies through fun reading, taking turns reading, reinforcing phonics, asking questions, modeling listening and being positive role models.
  • Amy Gordiejew, Taft Elementary, Youngstown City Schools, to support Sing, Spell, Read & Write relies heavily on music to teach alphabetic principles, phonemic awareness, sound/letter correspondence and short vowel sounds in a fun way. The project focuses this resource on the school’s English Learner population.
  • Rick Gurski, Taft Elementary, Youngstown City Schools, for a project to integrate the visual arts into the reading and writing process in K-3 classrooms with the utilization of a renowned author and illustrator in residence.
  • Tim Harker, Glenwood Junior High, Boardman Schools, for a project to raise global awareness around one of the UN Sustainable Goals and its impact on a foreign country.
  • Kelly Hutchison, Warren City Schools, for the program “Into the Hands of Families,” which will provide families with knowledge and resources that promote kindergarten readiness. The school will conduct family-friendly meetings and volunteer at Candyland Lane to engage families in educational opportunities which promote the use of the VROOM App.
  • Sharon King, MLK Jr. Elementary, Youngstown City Schools, to improve early grade reading proficiency with an interactive curriculum for students with autism, using Hot Dots and pens.  This curriculum enables learners to access a curriculum like their same-age/grade-level peers.  Students will benefit from this opportunity using multiple modalities of learning.
  • Sarah Lowe, Beaver Local Middle School, Beaver Local Schools, for a program to ignite student learning and raise math proficiency through an integration of technology, design, problem solving and critical thinking activities that provide insight to college/career readiness.
  • Maria Pappas, Youngstown City Schools, for school community project that provides academic and career-related visioning via writing prompts for all students to inspire high-quality, publishable student writing.  It also provides a painting workshop for select K-12 student artists.
  • Sharon Ragan, Paul C. Bunn Elementary, Youngstown City Schools, for a project to improve middle grade math proficiency by creating a STEAM club that integrates aligned math standards into designing real-world projects.
  • Jill Redmond, McGuffey PK-8, Warren City Schools, for the McGuffey Fitness and Wellness Challenge, an innovative after school program that exposes students to careers in fitness and wellness.
  • Mark Robinson, Youngtown Rayen Early College, Youngstown City Schools, to create a makerspace where students can explore academic content visually and hands-on using emerging technologies and integrating design thinking, collaboration, creativity and innovation into core curriculum and providing for exploration and application of concepts in real-world experiences.
  • Eleanna Vlahos-Hall, Jefferson PK-8, Warren City Schools, for “Men of Distinction,” a middle school male mentoring program designed to enhance academic and postsecondary success. Students and mentors will have the opportunity to role model and build relationships that will guide them through various obstacles throughout the year and plan for future success.