(Seguin) -- The non-profit Seguin Education Foundation continues its efforts to enhance the quality of education in local classrooms. SEF on Thursday held its annual Prize Patrol. The charitable organization and its volunteers were joined by members of the Seguin ISD administrative staff and by members of the Seguin High School Matador Band, which serenaded each campus as the grant were presented to each school.
SEF Executive Director Katie Edwards says they were able to hand out approximately $60,000 in grants this year.
"This is our 11th year with the Seguin Education Foundation. We are providing $59,500. Every single campus for Seguin ISD gets a grant today, which is amazing. We switched up our applications and we decided to go toward a campus need application versus something that is inovative, because sometimes when you're making a cake, you need the eggs to make the cake, before you need the icing to put on top of it. So our campuses were able to get things that they might have not been able to get through their normal budgets which is a big part of our Seguin Education Foundation mission. It's just a wonderful opportunity to go around with the Might Matador Band and surprise all the campuses and have the students and teachers cheering," said Edwards.
Laura Vrana, a teacher at Jefferson Avenue Elementary School, was thrilled to learn that she had received a grant to continue and expand a garden club at the campus.
"We started the garden club last year with the help of the Guadalupe County Extension Agent Matt (Miranda). So we have a two bed vegetable garden, we have a two bed herb garden and we have a small orchard. And the kids have just loved it so much. Everyday I walk down the hall and I hear 'when are we going to have garden club? Is the garden club today?' I was amazed at how much it meant to them. So I was very proud of how it has all worked out. I have won several grants, and so this is a really big one and I'm excited," said Vrana
Vrana says the garden club is not just about growing plants, flowers or vegetables. She says it also teaches the kids some very valuable lessons about science and life.
"We do multiple experiments. We follow several TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills), especially with science for investigation and finding out life-cycles. They make observations and they do measurements. They put together all these things, and that does help them in science. As well as social (and) emotional development, which is important, and I'm very pleased with that too," said Vrana.
Edwards says the SEF Board of Directors is made up of volunteers from the community, who work throughout the year to help generate the money that allows these grants to be given away each year.
"Because we are a non-profit organization, every single dollar comes from the community. Whether it's individuals, whether it's companies for our events, Denim and Diamonds, and our Celebration of Excellence, which honors the top 10 percent of the graduating class and their educational heroes. It's all from the community. We want to thank the community, (and) thank our sponsors. This is your day as much as it is for the students and teachers in Seguin ISD -- so congratulations Seguin," said Edwards.
The donations from SEF are making a difference. Vrana says she thanks the foundation and the community for the support that they provide to local classrooms.
"I would say thank you so much, and if they could see what it has meant to the school and to the children, they would feel so warm in their heart, because they would understand what it truly means," said Vrana.
Edwards says the group is already making plans for its largest fundraiser. She says Denim and Diamonds is only a couple of months away. She says more details on how you can support the foundation can be found online at www.seguineducationfoundation.org.
"(On) February 25th, we have our Denim and Diamonds Gala. Anyone in the community is invited. We will be sending out sponsorship letters and we appreciate your support to continue to make this happen for our students and teachers in Seguin ISD," said Edwards.
All 13 schools that make up the Seguin ISD received grant funding from the Seguin Education Founation this year. Here's a list of all of the grant awards, and the campus summaries provided by each school:
Burges Alternative School
The Attendance Academic Behavior Success will dramatically increase the attendance at Burges Alternative School by consistently implementing a token economy that addresses attendance, academics and social behavior. Students will earn "Burges Bucks" and the top three students will be able to trade in their "Bucks."
Mercer Blumberg Learning Center
Attendance is always a struggle for MBLC, not uncommon a problem for all nontraditional schools. We do several reward events for our students each week like Taco Tuesdays, and we reward our perfect attendance at our 6 weeks award ceremonies. Currently our microphones are old and unreliable and our sound system is leftovers from the ceiling of JC Penney. We are planning to add to the social environment with the microphones and speaker system.
Ball Early Childhood
In prekindergarten, children observe and describe the natural world using their five senses. Children do science as inquiry in order to develop and enrich their abilities to understand scientific concepts and processes. Children develop vocabulary through their experiences investigating properties of common objects, earth materials, and organisms. With the funding from the SEF grant, we hope to build a science lab for teachers and students to visit so that children can explore with science tools and use hands on activities. The opportunity to have a room specifically designed to teach science will make instruction easier for teachers and student participation will be more hands on.
Project No.1 - We would like to purchase materials to further support the Jefferson Garden Club. Students will continue their learning of growing healthy foods in the hopes that as they grow up, they will continue to participate in gardening, and live a healthy lifestyle. Their participation in Garden Club helps to develop their responsibility to and respect for nature, while fostering cooperation and team work with fellow students. Working in the garden also develops real-life problem solving skills as they design and establish the garden beds.
Project No. 2 - Read All About It! is designed to continue to develop students’ literacy skills in all of the core content areas, Reading, Science, Social Studies and Math. We will purchase Scholastic magazines to assist students in building literacy skills across all genres. As students read and write about current events and fiction and nonfiction texts, they will develop vocabulary skills. The varied genres covered in the magazines will expose them to more examples and help build their comprehension of the text features. We will also purchase Exemplars math lessons to assist students in comprehension of word problems. These lessons will assist teachers in supporting students through the use of real-life problems, manipulatives and models. Students will take ownership in communicating, analyzing, justifying and displaying their reasoning in developing their answers. Using these two resources, students will be applying the process TEKS across all of their content areas.
A classroom meeting area ~ a carpet with designated seats for each student ~ is an essential component to the learning experience of primary grade students. We are requesting new carpets for our Kindergarten and First Grade classrooms as well as our Music Classroom and Library to use during whole group instruction, including shared reading, calendar time, daily warm-up routines, etc. The new carpets would provide a defined meeting area for whole group instruction. A welcoming and organized space builds classroom community and makes group learning time more effective. A classroom rug with delineated seats gives every student their own comfortable spot to learn.
Project No. 1 - The purpose of this project is to provide flexible seating options for students that have a difficult time sitting in traditional chairs. We would like to purchase a variety of seating options to use in our kindergarten classrooms to meet the needs of each student. Some of the immediate benefits of flexible seating include:-burning more calories, using up excess energy, improving metabolism, increased motivation and engagement, creating a better oxygen flow to the brain, and improving core strength and overall posture.
Project No. 2 - We propose integrating Reading, Math, Science, Writing, Social Studies and Character Objectives into our Read Bake Share Project. Students would get the opportunity once a month to read a book that aligns to our 3rd grade TEKS, bake a corresponding recipe, deliver the baked goods into the community, and then share their time by volunteer, or people that provide the community with an important service.
The goal for Patlan Elementary is to encourage kids to love reading by introducing a new book each month at the morning assembly. Each teacher then gets a copy of the monthly book to focus on in classroom activities. Each monthly book selection will focus on cultural themes and every grade will present on the book and the themes at the following assembly.
The goal for Rodriguez Elementary is growth for all learners. We are also emphasizing both vertical and horizontal alignment. With this grant, we hope to improve student academic success through the use of instructional materials that will help solidify student understanding of the content to include but not limited to reading, math, special education, 504 and bilingual.
The K-2 phonics program will provide supplemental instructional materials to help students master foundational skills in the areas of phonemic awareness, phonics/ word study, high frequency word study, reading fluency, vocabulary, comprehension strategies, handwriting and spelling. Through the implementation of the phonics program we expect to see academic gains in overall reading skills as measured by the Istation assessment results and running records.
Our goal at Weinert is to have every student reading on grade level by the time they reach 3rd grade. Even with our best efforts, some students are not on grade level and have not made the academic gains that we would expect for incoming 3rd graders. Implementing the Leveled Literacy Intervention System (LLI), will allow us to provide additional reading support to struggling students in 1st – 5th grades. We want to strengthen our balanced literacy approach to reading that has been in place at Weinert for the last two years. We believe the LLI system mirrors our current reading program in an in-depth way and is the best intervention system for students who are low performing academically.
AJ Briesemeister Middle School
The purpose of the proposed project is to update the lighting and sound equipment for AJ Briesemeister Middle School for this year’s stage productions and for the collaborative presentation of "The Lion King Jr." The theater, choir, and general music classes at AJ Briesemeister will present the musical at the end of the year. The project will provide learning opportunities to students for a variety of skills including, musical performance, theater production, stage management, costume and set design, stage lighting, live sound, leadership, and teamwork.
Jim Barnes Middle School
Project No. 1 - Barnes Middle School, is seeking a grant to purchase science materials to assist with the STAAR preparation. It is very hard for the students to understand abstract concepts such as these without models to help them visualize what it means. I strongly feel that with the aid of these models, the students will be able to better conceptualize what these concepts consist of and how to better understand how to answer questions that pertain to these topics that will show up on the STAAR test since they are readiness TEKS.
Project No. 2 - Technology in the classroom promotes student engagement through exposure to the tools needed to be successful in future college and career settings. Additionally, the availability of thousands of relevant apps allows students to learn content and express themselves in creative and thought provoking ways. iPad Up! addresses the need for consistent student access to technology in the classroom. The target population of iPad Up! is the 850 current and all future Jim Barnes Middle School students. There are approximately 40 classroom teachers who will be able to rely upon this increased access to technology for their lesson planning.
Seguin High School
First Step Basic Skills Series – A Developmental Transition Series Program is designed to provide work behavior development, simulated work environment, and a token economy. This program is targeted to students receiving special education who require basic vocational skills including how to work in the areas of: basic hand tools, basic employability – such as sorting, collating, assembly, assembly line, filing, etc. to become independent and functional in the job market; basic measurement for transitioning from school to independent living and functioning in the community, and basic household skills, including education in basic skills to allow students to live as independently as possible in the home environment. Some of these same skills are also required to perform jobs in the work world such as the cleaning industry. This program targets students who receive special education and require assistance in learning how to obtain a job, how to stay on task and be a good employee to retain employment, and how to live independently by managing money and keeping a clean workstation. These target students range from students who are very involved with their disabilities to higher functioning students who need vocational training assistance.
This year's SEF grant total equaled $59,500.