Published December 4, 2014
By Devin Corbitt, The Belton Journal
The Belton Educational Enrichment Foundation (BEEF) distributed more than $46,000 in grants Tuesday morning to teachers and faculty across the district. The money was given to paraprofessionals to help advance their pursuit of higher education as well as teachers to support supplemental programs and items for their classrooms.
“I think this is the largest amount of money that we’ve given out for teacher grants in a year, and maybe the most number of grants,” Jay Taggert, BEEF Board President, said. “We’re very proud that we’ve been able to do more. As our district continues to grow, our needs continue to grow. The Foundation continues to work hard and raise the money to continue to funds as many of those grants as we can.”
Five paraprofessionals, who each received $500, included Andy Foster, a BISD Mail Carrier; Kacee Green, Benefits Specialist; Shenick Hicks, CTE Administrative Secretary; Chantell Horner, GCS Aide at North Belton Middle School; and Rosemarie Livingstone, Inclusion Aide at Tarver Elementary.
Foster, who is a fourth-time recipient of this grant, is a senior at A&M Central Texas getting a Bachelor of Business Administration and hopes to get his teaching certificate and find a spot in the district.
“Y’all have made it possible to get my education and better my family,” Foster said. “Thank you so much from the bottom of my heart. It means a lot. Tuition is not cheap, and this goes a long way to helping me achieve the goals for myself and my family.”
Green, who also attends A&M Central Texas, wants to continue in the district as either a professional position in Human Resources or as a truancy officer after receiving her degree.
Hicks plans to attend Central Texas College before transferring to Texas A&M to pursue a teaching degree.
“I haven’t quite decided what I want to teach, what grade level, but I do want to teach,” Hicks said. “I really, really appreciate this. Thank you so much.”
Horner is studying Criminal Justice at the University of Pheonix, and Livingstone plans to attend school in Germany.
Teacher grants this year totaled $43,528.09.
The first grant was awarded to Belton Early Childhood School Prekindergarten teachers Kristie Blattner, Juana Loa, Megan Reynolds, and London Yepez in the amount of $1,655.54 for “Jumping into Learning with Frog Family Fun Packs.”
“These are packs that will go home (with students),” Blattner said. “They’re a fun, interactive way for families to learn together and be able to support their children’s learning at home. We’re really excited about having that home connection.”
The next grant went to Joshua Essary, Jose Rivera, Kelly Morris, Pam Rheinlander and Sue Brown, teachers at South Belton Middle School: $3,749.70 for “Easy as Raspberry Pi” starter packs, monitors and cables.
“Raspberry Pi are pretty much very small computers,” Essary said. “The students will have access to programming, and they’ll be able to make prototypes of devices, they’ll be able to use it in a robotics sense, to make websites and learn how networking works. It’s just a really great hands-on tool to help kids learn the ins and outs of computers and technology.”
Sylvia Morales, Helen Freeman, Heather Norfleet, Kelsey Pryor and ReNae Esterby, second grade teachers at Chisholm Trail Elementary, were given $1,853.75 for “Super Garden” supplies.
“We’re going to build five rectangular gardens,” Freeman said. “Each (second grade) class is going to have their own to tend to, and hopefully we’re going to grow some vegetables for the kids to take home and give to the needy.”
Misty Norwood, Special Education teacher at Sparta Elementary, received $1,231.60 for Reading Eggs Software.
“Lots of kids will be very happy,” Norwood said. “Reading Eggs will be a supplemental reading program in our classroom where we can rotate out different groups of kids, and it’s leveled at their reading level and builds them up.”
BEEF awarded Belton High School Theater Arts teachers Melissa Edwards and Casey Jones all three of their grant requests: $2,886.87 for “Cue the Lights,” $1,323.36 for “Wig & ‘Stache Bash” and $1,139.04 for “The Aging Zombie.” This was their first time applying for grants.
“You guys put a lot of work and effort into submitting some excellent grants,” Taggert said. “I just want to thank you on behalf of the Board for submitting your applications for grants to help you over here in your theater arts program. That’s something that sometimes we overlook when we’re thinking about teacher grants, but we know that y’all do great work out here with the kids at Belton High School as well. Thank you for being part of this educational process.”
Megan Moon, Anna Tuma and LaGay Pittenger, fifth grade teachers at Lakewood Elementary, were awarded $1,020 for “Social Studies Alive! America’s Past,” an online program.
“The Social Studies Alive! program is really interactive with the kids,” Moon said. “We can put pictures up for them, it gives us music that would have been from the time and it coordinates stuff that’s real life for them, such as how to discover people from the past and applying it to other history.”
The fifth grade team at High Point Elementary, made up of Hugh Burke, Ryan Young, Lisa Browning and Vicki Vaughn, was given $8,780.20 to purchase 25 iPad minis, cases and a charging station.
“With a class set of 25, we can work in table groups, work together with a device and if a class is checking out the set, every one of you can have your own device,” Burke said. “So we’ll be sharing them as a fifth grade team, but it’ll open up a whole lot of opportunities.”
Kim Hinds, fourth grade teacher at High Point Elementary, welcomed the $2,773.99 grant for an ActivBoard Touch and Classroom Response System
“You’re going to be able to take math and science to a whole new level,” Hinds said as she explained the grant to her students. “You’re going to be able to walk up to and touch and write on a great big what’s like an iPad, and you’re going to be able to respond to questions with your own answering system. We’re going to be able to do things in manipulate math and science in a way that’s up-to-date with the newest technology, which is really exciting. I’m super excited, and I’m very grateful.”
Every student at Pirtle will benefit from the two grants awarded them. The first is $8,374.40 for STEMscopes Science Kits.
“Every grade level out here at Pirtle Elementary is going to have a special kit to help (them) learn science and a lot of other great innovative things,” Taggert said.
The second is $4,072.20 for a PE Motor Lab.
“You’ve got a wonderful teacher in Ms. Whiteaker,” Taggert said. “She knows that for you to be able to learn in school, you have to have a healthy body. If you’ve got a healthy body, you’ve got a healthy mind, and you’re able to be good learners. And that’s very, very, very important.”
The last stop of the BEEF Patrol was Leon Heights Elementary. First grade teachers Rose Morales and Bonnie Dominguez were awarded $1,692.44 for books in the literacy library.
“Every day in first grade, we learn how to read with books that we take home, but we need lots of books to be better readers,”Dominguez said.
And last, but certainly not least, Susan Vail, a fifth grade teacher at Leon Heights, received $1,692.44 for four iPads and cases to complete her classroom set.
“Last year, we funded 20 iPads,” Taggert said. “Well, come to find out, you needed some more; you got more kids!”
Since 2003, including this year, the Foundation has awarded $295,329.33 in grants to teachers.
“I’m very proud to be part of this organization,” Taggert said. “I’m even more proud, I think, because I’m a product of Belton High School. I was born and raised here in Belton, went to Belton schools, and I’ve been able to live back here in my community. So to be able to be part of this kind of an organization that continues to support our schools and our students and our teachers and our faculty in so many ways has been very special to me personally.”
For more information on BEEF or to find out how you can donate, contact Judy Owens at (254) 215-2024 or Judy.Owens@bisd.net.