Every year, the Park City Education Foundation divvies out grants to teachers, funds supporting new programs and teaching techniques. The PCEF Teacher Grants Committee combed through a flood of requests from teachers, covering everything from dual-immersion to technology, and funding more than $48,000 in requests.
Grants were distributed to 28 teachers starting last week, with several partially funded and 13 projects fully funded. Every school received at least one grant. Nine were awarded to the Park City High School and seven in Treasure Mountain Junior High School.
"District-wide initiatives can get a start in the classroom," said Lynn Cier, Chair of the PCEF Teacher Grants Committee. "I think we have contributed to that idea, funding teachers in the classroom and watching their ideas grow into something that benefits every student in Park City."
Every year, PCEF uses grant money to fund ideas coming straight from teachers, the riskier ideas, the ideas that test new programs at the classroom level to see what the next big breakthrough for students. In some cases, teacher grants have gone on to become district-wide initiatives, from technology in the classroom to interactive learning.
"Differentiation is important," said PCEF Communications Manager Jennifer Billow, "and this year we saw a lot of different kinds of programs in the grant applications."
This year, PCEF received fewer technology-based grants. Several grants focused on bolstering the district dual immersion efforts, but grants also looked at every category of students, from English Language Learners to special needs.
This year's grant recipients are still being notified, and Billow said she expects teachers to start purchasing new equipment and getting programs in place before the holiday season is over.
In Park City High School, grants centered mostly on art programs, funding boom microphones for the video production classes, camera lenses for the digital photography classes, and theater costumes. One unique program included in the grants was one for Special Education Kitchen Skills, which was awarded $320 and allows teachers to purchase kitchen equipment to train students in basic cooking skills. The Future Business Leaders of America program received funds to purchase a new laptop, a mobile headquarters for the growing club.
A trend in this year's grant applications, the committee helped fund reading materials for dual-immersion programs in the elementary schools as well as funding engineering clubs where students use Lego's to learn about engineering.
"We're getting a lot of (grant requests) for dual immersion," Cier said. "Grants went to support programs and equipment this year."
When the teacher grant program was first introduced, total incoming requests reached roughly half a dozen. This year, the committee received $160,000 in funding requests, with individual grants ranging from $175 to $30,000. More teacher grant requests were submitted this year than any other year, from 40 last year to 42 this year.
In past years, PCEF funded projects such as a Nintendo and math program, and when it came before the committee, there was nothing like it in the school district, Billow said. That was several decades ago, and since then, technology has flooded classrooms in the Park City School District, from the one-to-one laptop initiatives to iPads in classes.
"Everyone, the whole grant committee, was like, 'What is he talking about,'" Billow said in a previous Park Record interview, "'playing a game to learn math? It was a very new, very scary concept, but a very successful one."
Cier and Billow said the committee was conscious of school district efforts to support the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) initiatives. In the junior high school, middle school and elementary schools, several science and engineering programs were funded.
At Treasure Mountain Junior High School, a 10-week-long Winter Science Exploration Study was funded where students will investigate winter ecosystems, from tracking winter mammals to studying the natural processes which result in avalanches. Students in the sixth grade at Ecker Hill Middle School will be able to collect pond water samples from nearby water sources and use microscopes to look at what is there, the grant funding the equipment needed for the experiment. A Jeremy Ranch class was given funding to purchase incubators to be used to study the lifecycle of a chicken, from egg to chick.
"Whether it is after school engineering programs or studying chickens, we saw a lot of innovative ideas," Cier said. "It's exciting, seeing what teachers come up with for the classroom. It could be district-wide one day."