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The Gift of Grants: VAISD Teachers Get Surprise Visit

Submitted Photo  VAEF members pictured, from left: Claire Thomas, Becky Razor, Veronica Westmorland, Donna Kerns, Dr. John Spies, Mark Fletcher and Mandy Montgomery.
Submitted Photo VAEF members pictured, from left: Claire Thomas, Becky Razor, Veronica Westmorland, Donna Kerns, Dr. John Spies, Mark Fletcher and Mandy Montgomery.

The Van Alstyne Education Foundation (VAEF) along with Van Alstyne ISD Superintendent Dr. John Spies surprised teachers in every school in the district by going classroom to classroom and presenting more than $10,000 worth of grants last week.

VAISD teachers apply for VAEF grants by asking for specific items which would help improve and update learning in the classroom. The teacher is also asked to include a price figure in their application and how many students stand to benefit from the grant. The majority of grants awarded for the 2013-14 school year were related to technology, such as tablets for elementary school students and a next-gen digital chalk board that instantly makes class notes available online.

“Not only does VAEF fund teacher grants, they award senior scholarships to deserving seniors in May,” said VAEF Executive Director Mandy Montgomery.

Once the grant requests are viewed and approved by each of the VAISD campus principals, the approved applications are forwarded to the VAEF Teacher Grant Committee. The committee is composed of the VAISD superintendent, the VAEF executive director and four members of the community. The committee then narrows down the recipients to a list of final selections which are then passed along to the VAEF Board for final approval.

“Our district, along with others, is dealing with budget cuts. It’s VAEF’s mission to provide resources to enhance educational experiences for all students. With a portion of money that VAEF raises, we try to award as many grants as possible so that students and teachers have the tools they need to be successful,” said Montgomery. “Funding that the State of Texas provides our schools, teachers and students is just the minimum. VAEF wants to build on that so that children in our district have more than the minimum.”

Since its founding in 2012, the VAEF holds three larger scale fundraising events annually, which include a Gala each March, a 5K charity run in late spring and a skeet shoot in the fall.

“Our board is busy to say the least and we could use the community involvement at all our events to make them even bigger and better,” said Montgomery.

Heather Patty, of the Van Alstyne High School science department, was awarded $1,934 for a digital microscope; Carol Smith, of the chemistry department, was presented with $1,697 for an interactive whiteboard which uploads the lessons of the day to the school’s website in real time. The high school library was awarded $757 in the form of e-books available for download on students’ digital devices.

“This is going to make my life easier and is going to be so good for the kids. I’m going to be able to record my lessons as I am doing them. I have been recording lessons but I have to come in after school and find quiet, uninterrupted time. They will get to see what I actually did in class. It’s going to be really good. I’m excited,” said Smith after receiving the ceremonial check.

The entire Van Alstyne Middle School fifth and sixth grade classes were presented $1,800 and $2,152, respectively, for Chromebook laptops, while the grade six gifted and talented program was awarded $1,980 in iPad tablets. The seventh grade students were given an award of $2,000 for Chromebooks.

The kindergarten teachers at Van Alstyne Elementary School were presented with $1,995 for the purchase of iPads. First grade received $1,132 for Android tablets, while the second graders were awarded $1,795 for iPad Minis. The third and fourth grades were presented with $4,758 for technology upgrades.

Citizens are encouraged to visit www.VanAlstyneEducationFoundation.org for more information or to make a donation.