Schoolpower Grants Teachers’ Wishes

Art teacher Scott Wittkop and Somer Selway.

Art teacher Scott Wittkop and Somer Selway.

Schoolpower’s Endowment Board delivered checks totaling $170,174 to Laguna Beach’s school board last week, including $70,174 for teacher grants next fall, and $50,000 each for a 10-year foreign language grant and the first installment of a three-year pledge for a strings program.

Endowment President Bill Moore called this year’s payout “spectacular.” A whopping

“We are grateful to have [SchoolPower] as partners and we consider ourselves very lucky,” said Supt. Sherine Smith.

Science students at Laguna Beach High School will get Toshiba tablets and a partnership with UCSD chemists, who are excited to see how Laguna Beach students are learning, according to teacher Steve Sogo, a grant recipient. Language students will enjoy new Spanish and French computer apps. There will be funding for an annual math conference and PAL leadership training as a result of the grants, according to a Schoolpower statement.

And an art department grant will give students the chance to work a new engraving machine. “This is a phenomenal piece of equipment that we can use in every single art class,” said art teacher Scott Wittkop. The department also will have a mobile display case thanks to a grant written by newcomer Somer Selway, who realized quickly the resources that LBUSD offers. “I am so excited to be part of a district that is so supportive of the arts,” said the ceramics teacher.

At Thurston Middle School, the teacher grants mean science camp scholarships, virtual notebooks and, in Carl Nelson’s class, history video props. “In my classroom, I try to go head-first into creativity,” said Nelson, who teaches social studies. “My super-creative kids will have a ball. I have the best job in the world.”

In partnership with the Boys and Girls Club, a social skills project has been created which gives kids a place to spend their lunch break. “My son Theo and his friends go there at lunch and one of the mentors is teaching them magic tricks,” said Brendy Michael, whose child is in the seventh grade. “The idea is that there are mentors engaging kids in games and projects. The kids have a lot of fun.”

In the elementary schools, the teacher grants will buy books and laptops, improve libraries and upgrade math programs. Marie Bammer, who wrote a $3,000 grant request for Common Core writing training, said teachers at both elementary schools will benefit.  “Learning Headquarters is a program that is so dynamic and it breaks down writing from the first sentence,” said Bammer, a Top of the World fourth grade teacher. “And I love that this is something that can be collaborative with all teachers.”

El Morro children will have an art program in the garden, thanks to a grant written by Tamara Wong. “Many artists have been inspired by the garden and it seemed natural to paint what is natural and local,” said Mary Blanton, who works with Wong on the third grade team. “This really causes the kids to stop, look, think and examine, which is so important.”

The teacher grant program is set up to empower teachers and enrich student learning. Robin Rounaghi, who chairs Schoolpower’s teacher grant program, said that it is fantastic to see teachers’ dreams become reality. “It is motivation for Schoolpower volunteers,” she said.

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