Teachers rewarded for bringing special quality to class time


Creativity in the classroom can be difficult on a budget. That’s why the Lee’s Summit Educational Foundation recently sent its award team to award grants to teachers across the school district who have ideas for making classes a little different.

The annual Excellence and Knowledge Promotion (PEAK) grants started at $ 100 and grew to $ 5,922, each for specific purposes. Although most of the grants were for 21 specific schools, several were for district-wide initiatives. Any teacher can request it.

“The goal is to provide teachers with the resources they need to bring lessons to life and to provide them with resources that cannot be funded by the district budget,” said Sheryl Franke, executive director of the foundation.

A committee of 15 to 20 community members judged the applications blindly, not knowing which teacher or school applied. Criteria included impact on students, creativity, and how long the program could benefit students.

There have been fewer applications this year and fewer funded programs. Franke said things had been tough with the pandemic. Overall, 46 of the 57 applications received funding of just over $ 52,000.

The more students a program assigns, the more funds the foundation is willing to provide.

Aaron Layendecker, chair of the district’s modern languages ​​department, received the largest grant for his Bringing Authentic Language into the Classroom proposal. It will apply to foreign language students in the three high schools.

The grant will allow schools to subscribe to a service called This Is Language, which features videos of people from around the world talking about things of their daily lives in their native languages ​​and dialects.

“If I had a unit on housing or health, they have a whole library of videos of people explaining how these things affect their culture in the target language. Because they are native speakers, they are authentic intonations. It is an up-to-date vocabulary. Some of our vocabulary lists may seem outdated, ”Layendecker said.

Previously, the district used the program for fifth year language education students. This grant allows them to extend this program to students in the second, third and fourth years of language studies, reaching approximately 800 students.

Layendecker said he expects this to help students achieve higher scores in the listening sections for International Baccalaureate exams and catch up lost in a year of virtual learning. .

At Underwood Elementary, physical education teacher Stacey Bryant received a grant of $ 2,775 for a program that will reach approximately 500 students at the school. She got equipment for DrumFIT, also known as cardio percussion.

Basically, students stand behind an exercise ball on a stand and tap beats to different tunes using chopsticks.

“We have a rhythm and dance unit where we usually do square dances and line dances, which is fun, but that just gives it a whole new level when it comes to beats,” Bryant said.

She plans to coordinate the unit with the school’s music department. The hundreds of tracks available include genres such as hip hop and R&B. Bryant said if it was necessary, it was an activity easily adapted for social distancing.

Not all students like the traditional dance unit, so Bryant hopes that will inspire some of the reluctant to participate.

Another district-wide program that has received grants is the Inclusive Environment Resource Library in Sign Language. This library contains items that you won’t see in a regular library.

Materials available at checkout include a Scrabble game with images of American Sign Language representations of letters and dice with the ASL equivalent for each number printed on it.

The idea is to make any classroom a more social and communicative place for students who use sign language.

“I wanted to add a library of items that I can refer to for interpreters, teachers or speech-language pathology teachers for classrooms so that students who use ASL to communicate do not have a communication barrier that prevents them from having this inclusive experience, ”said Darla Nelson, a district interpreter for deaf students.

Nelson plans to track which lessons and goals each teacher uses the items for so that they can recommend them to other teachers who need to meet those goals with their students as well.

By using these elements in regular classrooms, students who previously did not know sign language will be able to interact more with students who use it.

“It really helps this kid’s self-esteem. It helps them be independent because they don’t need to rely on an interpreter to communicate, ”said Krystal Wygas, hearing specialist at Lee’s Summit West High School. “It’s fun to learn ASL, to bridge that language gap, so that they can also learn this language,” said Krystal Wygas, hearing-impaired specialist at Lee’s Summit West High School.

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