Nassau Education Foundation Think Big!

Submitted by Susan DeVane
Nassau Education Foundation
May 22, 2020
It is the time of year that the Nassau Education Foundation awards annual classroom teacher grants. Because of the challenges presented with Covid-19 and the CDC guidelines we had to find a new way to announce the grant winners. Grants were presented to every school in the Nassau County District School System via Zoom. All of the presentation videos can be found on our Nassau Education Foundation Facebook page. This year we added a new even bigger grant opportunity.
The Nassau Education Foundation (NEF) has presented its first ever Think BIG! collaborative, multi-teacher grants. In the past, the foundation has launched district- wide initiatives that encompass multiple schools and grade-levels based on feedback from the Nassau County School District. Examples include the partnership with the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations and Community First Cares Foundation to provide BrainPop software, and with Rayonier to provide robotics to elementary schools. In addition to these larger matching grants, the biggest piece of NEF support has gone directly to classrooms where teachers have requested projects and materials. Teachers that have been awarded classroom grants have told the foundation that they appreciate that the foundation offers grants every year. Grants from the foundation give them the ability to pay for things that enhance their classroom practices and provide a quality education for students. Since 2015, the Nassau Education Foundation has awarded over $500,000 in grants to teachers, schools and the district.

Over the past five years, the members of the board of directors have tried to think of ways to make their impact go farther, and based on requests from teachers, this year for the first-time grants were awarded for up to $3,000 for a collaborative, multi-teacher project. Teachers and school staff in all of Nassau County’s public schools were eligible to apply and the projects could be in any subject area and could include any combination of staff. The grants were read by a panel of educators and non-educators, and both board members and non-board community members. The readers had a tough time making choices but scored the applications based on an established rubric and the highest scoring grants were chosen. The teachers and their principals were awarded grants via an online Zoom grant presentation on Wednesday, May 13.

Congratulations to teachers Belinda Nease and her daughter Jessica White, both of Wildlight Elementary School (WES) for the outstanding project entitled Learning the Standards without Cracking a Book. WES plans to build a weather station with electronic data transmission as part of an outdoor learning center. Lessons would be aligned to math and science standards and students Pre-K through fifth grade will participate. Data collected throughout the day will be shared through the school’s TV production program. The outdoor learning center currently includes a chicken coop, raised garden beds and a composting area. The weather center is the perfect complement to this program. Another project from Wildlight Elementary caught the attention of the grant panelists. In The Trailblazer Trading Post, the WES ESE (Exceptional Student Education) students will manage a school store where they will build valuable life skills, social skills, communication skills and academic skills by interacting with students and overseeing operations in the school store. Teachers Kaitlin Pomeroy, Jennifer Cross, Crystal Gibbs and Jennifer Mullis joined Ms. Nease and Ms. White and Principal Scott Hodges on the virtual meeting to hear the good news!

West Nassau High School (WNHS) Principal Curtis Gaus and Assistant Principal Dan Snyder were on hand for the presentation to help congratulate a long list of teachers who joined together to apply for the Warrior Writing Lab. The Warrior Writing Lab is a student-centered lab that engages 11th and 12th grade honors students as tutors for students in grades 9-12. Student tutors will be trained and assigned to work with ELA (English Language Arts) teachers. WNHS would like to expand this program into other subject areas in the future. The foundation congratulates these teachers on their out-of- the-box thinking to help students reach their full potential. These teachers include Jennifer Henderson, Lynne Pulliam, Ashley Carollo, Shannon Brandt-Asciolla, Sherida Jones, Natalia Lane, Maureen Lullo, Patti Edwards, Pam Wilkerson and Briana McNeil. WNHS also received a second Think BIG! Grant for Accounting, Mathematics, Economics (Mimic Personal Finance Software). Mimic Personal Finance software is designed to help students budget and spend money responsibly. Extra congratulations to lead teacher Jimmie Walker, who joined the meeting from his honeymoon! Co-teachers on the project were Kaylynn Langford and Ian Pfalzer.