AEE announces grant recipients

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Seeing a need to decorate her school’s courtyard, Thomas Street Elementary art teacher Michelle Guyton had an idea for an educational project.
That idea received special recognition Thursday when Guyton was awarded the 2011 Founder’s Grant from the Association for Excellence in Education.
At its annual luncheon held at Rankin Elementary, AEE awarded 21 grants to Tupelo teachers to fund educational projects, including Guyton’s “Life Lab Courtyards.”
That project will allow students in every class at the school to plant gardens that will be used to study life cycles and to augment art classes.
As the recipient of the Founder’s Grant, Guyton received $7,802.64 for her project, plus an extra $500 to use in her classroom and special distinction.
“It is a perfect opportunity to have a place where kids can grow their own fruits and vegetables,” she said.
This year’s AEE grants total $81,854.80, which is the amount of funding that the volunteer community organization received in contributions. It received requests this year for 78 grants, totaling $348,622.26.
“We wish we had more money to give,” said AEE President Deborah McPherson. “We fund until we have no money to fund. There were some great grants that didn’t get funded.”
Recipients of last year’s grants used displays arranged in Rankin’s gymnasium to show how they had used last year’s grants.
Tupelo High School special education teacher Wanda Graham spoke about a new smoothie and coffee bar operated by special education students at the school.
Meanwhile, Amanda Young, a teacher at the Early Childhood Education Center, presented a display about a kitchen that allowed students at the preschool to experiment with cooking. Lawndale fifth-grade teacher Melissa Harris extolled a science lab the school added with its AEE grant money.
“We wouldn’t have been able to have the kitchen without the AEE’s support,” Young said. “We are very grateful the AEE could help us do that.”
The luncheon honored BancorpSouth as the recipient of the J.C. Whitehead Award for corporate education advocates, while Sally Gray received the Jack Reed Sr. Advocate for Education Award.
“I’m really humbled by an awareness of lots of people who have won this award who have been longtime advocates for Tupelo schools,” said Gray, who works as a parent coach for Parents for Public Schools. “It underscores for me the importance of rolling up your sleeves to improve education for all children.”

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@journalinc.com.