By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Joyner Elementary School first-grade teacher Laura Russell wants to see more students become strong in geography.
On Thursday, she received a grant from the Association for Excellence in Education that will help her make that a reality. It will provide more than $2,100 to buy a classroom set of GPS devices that can be used not only by her students, but also by those throughout the school district.
“This will allow students to purposefully use geography across the disciplines, and it won’t be an extra subject,” she said.
Russell’s proposal was among 16 to be funded this year by AEE, which announced its grant recipients during its annual meeting at Joyner Elementary. In its 31st year, the nonprofit organization raises money to support the Tupelo Public School District through grants for teachers and other projects. This year’s grants tally $67,807.01.
“Each year, they continue to get more creative,” Brent Waldrop, past president for AEE, said of the grant proposals. “We can see the passion of our teachers to be creative and think of different ways to educate our students in the classroom.”
Russell also won the Founder’s Grant award, which carries a $500 prize and honors the innovation of her proposal. It will include lesson plans and training for other teachers in how to incorporate the devices into their classrooms. For example, they can hold Geocaching hunts in which students must use GPS to find a hidden treasure.
“It is all about showing geography is important to include in the curriculum,” she said.
Hal and Deborah McPherson also were honored with the Jack Reed Sr. Award, which is given to a community advocate for education. Deborah served on the AEE board for nine years and is a past president, and the two of them have served on boards for Tupelo High soccer, cross country, swimming and show choir. They are Tupelo graduates, as are their three children.
“You have to support your schools,” Hal McPherson said. “If you don’t have good schools, you don’t have a community.”
The United Way of Northeast Mississippi won the J.C. Whitehead Award for corporate education advocates. They were represented by Executive Director Melinda Tidwell and Campaign Director Robby Parman.
Teachers requested more than $200,000 through their grant proposals this year, said Waldrop, adding the organization hopes to raise more funds in the future so it can provide more grants. It will spend nearly $80,000 on the Tupelo School District this year, a total that also includes awards given to some Teachers of Distinction and other projects. It has spent about $2.8 million in its history.
Prior to the program, teachers who had won grants for the current school year set up displays to explain how they had used that money. They included a science fun day at Milam Elementary, gardens for students at Thomas Street and the Early Childhood Education Center, math materials at Parkway and Lawndale and a field trip to Alabama for gifted students at Lawndale, among others.
“We couldn’t do this without AEE,” said ECEC teacher Katie Pannell. “We are so thankful they are part of our district. Without them, so many hands-on learning projects would not be possible.”
BREAKING IT DOWN
The Association for Excellence in Education announced on Thursday $67,807.01 in grants to the Tupelo Public School District:
• Joyner – Laura Russell, $2,119.35, Geo Ninja: Let the Hunt for Learning Begin.
• Lawhon – Courtney Finley, Erin Holloway, Amanda Koonlaba, $4,656, Fourth Grade’s Fabulous Fibonacci.
• Lawhon – Amanda Koonlaba, $2,825, Four Corners: Art Around the World.
• Lawhon – Amanda Koonlaba, Denise Hodge, Michelle Simmons, Anna Beth Williams, Andrea Watson, Amy Wyatt, $3,436, Extreme Makeover: Courtyard Edition.
• Lawndale – Kit Stafford, $9,399, “Writing with heART.”
• Lawndale – Bo Boatner, Laurenda Carmeans, Celia House, $2,618.59, Movers and Shakers: A Living History.
• Lawndale – Kit Stafford, $3,905.28, Monet and “MATH”terpieces.
• Milam – Deloris Fields-Jenkins, Anne Marie Littrell, Tracye Nance, Lori Smith, Crystal Wilson, Marrion Winders, Dennis Word, $4,331, Full STEAM Ahead.
• Parkway – Tracy Scott, Heather Cartwright, $8,660, Reading and Writing Lab.
• Parkway – Tracy Scott, Heather Cartwright, $2,265, Sowing Seeds for Education.
• Pierce Street – Jethlynn McCraw, Erin Hall, Kimberly Chambers, $8,960, ROAR: Reach Out and Remediate!
• Pierce Street – Miley Wise, $5,151.99, Get Fired up about Learning! Integrating Visual Arts Across the Curriculum.
• Rankin – Sherry Willis, Christy Morgan, Connie Buse, $6,982.37, Can You Dig It? eMerging From our Past into the Future.
• Thomas Street – Michelle Guyton, $918.75, Around the World in Arty Days.
• Thomas Street – Michelle Guyton, $1,202.68, Life Lab Courtyards
• Tupleo High School – Amanda Wood, Donna Ivy, $376, E3 Engaging and Educating our Engineers.