Park City Education Foundation donates more than $55,000 in grants for teachers
For years, students at Park City High School have been publishing the school’s newspaper, the Park City Prospector, dishing out school news and creating journalists out of regular students.
But the edition set to be published this week will be different than any that have come before it. The issue is set to feature stories written in Spanish — something that has never happened in the history of the student newspaper.
Featuring stories in Spanish is made possible by a $2,000 grant for publishing costs the Park City Education Foundation awarded to Park City High English teacher Jacob Jobe. But that’s just one example of the influence the foundation wields with its annual grants. According to Sara Hutchinson, program officer for the foundation, the organization doled out 33 teacher grants this fall, totaling more than $55,000.
"I think it’s the best part of my job and certainly a highlight of the year," Hutchinson said. "We have so many applications that are coming in from the teachers, which is great. We had 59 grants asked this year. They just range from all sorts of ideas that the teachers have and it’s amazing. It’s really interesting to see what’s going on in the classrooms and to see the creativity of the teachers."
As one of the teachers whose grant application was deemed worthy of funding, Jobe is grateful for the support. He said that about one-third of each edition of the newspaper published after the winter break will be written in Spanish. Some stories will be written in both languages.
The goal, Jobe said, is to give a voice to a portion of the high school’s population that has never had one quite like this at the newspaper. He hopes the program will serve as an access point for Hispanic students to become involved in what is happening at the school.
He added that most Hispanic students haven’t yet heard of the program, but will find out when the latest edition of the paper is published this week.
"There are a lot of bilingual students, but the students who are bilingual aren’t usually rewarded for being bilingual," he said. "It’s kind of one of those hidden skills. But it’s cool that they will be acknowledged for being able to write in Spanish outside of a Spanish classroom. And the other thing that students appreciate is being able to have an important outlet for the Hispanic community."
Barb Hansen, a second-grade teacher at Jeremy Ranch Elementary, is another teacher who had a grant funded. She received nearly $4,900 for a leveled literacy intervention program that is designed to primarily help struggling readers make steady improvements. The program includes books for students from kindergarten through second grade and incorporates structured lessons and assessments to fully engage the students in reading.
Hansen said the program has been met with enthusiasm among teachers at Jeremy Ranch, who have told her, "It’s exactly what we need. We’re desperate for this."
She added that she expects the program to pay quick dividends for students.
"It’s extremely important," Hansen said. "We want to build their confidence, making sure that they continue to feel like they can read. And we want them to have a lot of time to read — not just anything, but reading things on their level that pushes them a little bit but not too much. It’s about building confidence and letting them enjoy what they’re reading."
Both Hansen and Jobe agreed that the Education Foundation’s grants are the only way many crucial programs within the district could be funded.
"A lot of the coolest programs that we have at the high school are not doable without the Education Foundation — it’s everything from Academic Decathlon to speech and debate and even our newspaper," Jobe said. "It adds a layer outside of traditional academics that we wouldn’t have access to otherwise. It gives us opportunities that other schools around the state definitely don’t have."
Hutchinson said the Education Foundation views its teacher grants as a way to improve the educational experience for most students in the district. Each school in the district had teachers receive grants, and nearly every student benefits from the programs.
"I think it really differentiates us from other school districts in Utah," Hutchinson said, adding that the Education Foundation’s efforts are only possible because of its many donors. "Unfortunately, the funding statewide per pupil is 51st lowest in the country, behind (all states and Washington, D.C.). So I think what we do at PCEF has enabled these teachers to have interesting and innovative ideas come to life. It bridges the gap between what is available with state funding and what our standards are for Park City."
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Compensation is the largest issue left on the table after a contract governing most every other aspect of teachers’ employment was negotiated earlier in June.