By Chris Kieffer
SHANNON – Shannon High School art teacher Warren Jennings stood at the front of his classroom on Friday morning and watched the fruits of past grants he had received.
The funds were from Exceptional Progress in Education through Curriculum and Technology, or ExPECT, an organization that raises money to support Lee County School District teachers and then funds grants for various classroom enhancements.
Jennings’ students were creating ceramic bowls, trays and various items using clay, glazes, tools and other materials he had purchased from two grants he’s received in the past. They completed their work using a kiln he bought with a grant he had won a couple of years ago.
“Without ExPECT, we wouldn’t be able to do what we’re doing now,” Jennings said. “We wouldn’t have pottery or ceramics here at Shannon High School. It is too expensive, and we wouldn’t have the funds.”
The latest round of ExPECT grants was approved at Tuesday night’s Lee County School Board meeting. Twenty-one grants were funded, totaling $27,253.05.
Among them is Jennings’ third successful grant, which he will use to buy two potters wheels, 10 boxes of clay and cleaning materials.
“It will help students understand how to throw pottery on the wheel and make bigger vases,” he said.
The organization received 31 grant requests this year, totaling $44,166.48, said ExPECT President Angel Wiginton. Winners were selected by a committee of two retired teachers and a community representative.
ExPECT is funded by the United Way, by corporate donors and by teachers who purchase a membership. In January, it will hold a fundraiser, in which Lee County teachers who give $10 will be able to wear jeans to school each Monday during the month. The organization also spends $1,000 to purchase the mats for the district’s art exhibit in the spring.
“Teachers put a lot of time and effort into their applications,” Wiginton said. “You can tell they love what they do, and their passion for teaching really shows through.”
Mooreville Middle sixth-grade science teacher Shelley Dobbs will use her $1,346.88 grant to buy triple-balances and digital scales for the school’s science lab.
“We are lacking measuring equipment,” she said. “This will allow us to do more hands-on activities with our students.”
Saltillo High School family and consumer science teacher Lindsey Gann will purchase Dave Ramsey’s “Foundations in Personal Finance” program for high school students. She will use it in her resource management class to better teach personal finance.
“This will be my third year to teach it, and I didn’t feel my students were grasping that information,” she said. “It is so important.
“We are putting them into the workforce to be productive members of society, and they don’t know how to balance a checkbook. (Ramsey) is so entertaining and educational at the same time, and I’m hoping it will help them get a better grasp of it.”
Saltillo Elementary fourth-grade language arts teacher Anna McCarley’s grant will allow her to attend a workshop to better help struggling readers. The training in Jackson will focus on the Orton-Gillingham strategies.
“I’ve used similar tactics that I’ve learned from others that I’ve observed here at the school,” she said. “I’ve noticed growth in the data with those students.”