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Teachers gain mini-grants

GRANTS GIVEN — The Jefferson County Educational Service Center presented three $600 Best Practice Grants to Toronto City School teachers during the Oct. 24 school board session. On hand for the presentation were, from left, Karaffa Elementary School Principal Betsy Johns, who represented recipient Nikki Wright; recipient Nichole Locke; Cindy Hinerman, district director of special programs and preschool, who represented recipient Katie Mitchell; and Ron Sismondo, center supervisor. -- Contributed

TORONTO — Three Karaffa Elementary School teachers have been awarded 2019 Best Practice Grants to help hone students’ learning skills.

Nikki Wright, Nichole Locke and Katie Mitchell were recognized during the Toronto City School Board of Education meeting on Oct. 24, where each teacher received a $600 mini-grant through the Jefferson County Educational Service Center for their projects. JCESC is awarding a total of 22 mini-grants to seven school districts, a vocational school and a community school during the 2019-20 academic year and Toronto’s money will benefit students in science, music and preschool programs.

Wright plans to purchase items for her project, “Science, Sound and Music in STEAM,” to allow her fifth-grade students to explore the art of science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics through sound, music and reading. The grant will provide her pupils with hands-on activities to produce sounds, use robotic tools to make music and to read about science. She said this will help build a science and music foundation that will carry over to junior high and high school.

“It will benefit approximately 60 students,” she said, noting that it was her third mini-grant. “I am very thankful for this opportunity and plan to use my materials in my classroom immediately.”

Locke, who instructs general music for first to fifth graders, choir for sixth to 12th grades and is assistant marching band director, said her money will allow her to add 94 recorders to her general music classroom, as well as other music items so each of her 75 students will learn to play the recorder during their fourth-grade year. As students master songs, they will earn a belt similar to karate and will be able to perform a belt song during class, after school or submit a video on Google Classroom from home. She said it also allows for differentiated instruction so that more advanced students can work on songs at a faster pace, plus they will perform a concert for their parents at the end of the year.

“My project was to receive recorders and music for a recorder karate program. Students will be able to have recorders to take home to practice and to advance their belts from the comfort of their home and without all the pressure of performing in front of their peers,” Locke said. “This year it will benefit about 70 students. However, I will be able to use these items for many years to come.”

She added that she has received the mini-grant before and was ecstatic to be selected once again.

Mitchell will use her grant to benefit “Be Our Guest,” a volunteer program that intends to bolster learning among her 96 preschoolers while building a strong relationship between teachers and parents. Books, games and art supplies will be purchased for the program and parents will be actively involved in their child’s first school experience by volunteering in the classroom. The volunteers will support educational games, activities, arts and crafts during classroom center times. Mitchell cited research which shows that parental involvement fosters academic achievement and improves attendance, behavior, social functioning and mental health.

“This project will be implemented as a volunteer program in which parents surprise their child as the guest volunteer in the classroom during center time,” she explained. “They will lend a hand in art projects, activities and educational games with our students.”

She also received a Best Practice Grant in the past and was extremely grateful to JCESC for providing the funding, while she was also pleased to implement her program to benefit her young students and encourage family involvement.

The center has been awarding Best Practice Grants for more than three decades to benefit education at Buckeye Local, Edison Local, Harrison Hills City, Indian Creek Local, Southern Local, Steubenville City and Toronto City Schools as well as Jefferson County Joint Vocational School and the Utica Shale Academy, while an estimated $106,500 has been disbursed during the past 12 years.

“The Jefferson County Educational Service Center Board governs with a belief of making decisions that are beneficial to our students. Most of those decisions are impactful at the district level,” said JCESC Superintendent Chuck Kokiko. “The grant program provides an opportunity to directly assist teachers and students in the classroom. The center is grateful to the teachers who apply for the Best Practice Grants and we look forward to funding innovative instructional practices in the classroom each year.”

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