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Education Foundation Grants Teachers' Wishes

Teachers Enhance Programs through Grants

Eighth-grade students at River Bend Middle School will learn about advance model rocketry, thanks to the Loudoun Education Foundation.

The Loudoun Education Foundation provides funds raised by the private sector to Loudoun County Public Schools.

Technology Education teachers Steven Tselides and Alfred Eaton applied for a $500 Loudoun Education Foundation grant in the fall 2005, to be conducted during the spring semester. The project’s title is X-Prize, Advance Rocketry.

"We wanted to do something different with rocketry," Tselides said.

Eaton and Tselides have prepared their students for the project during the fall semester, covering all aspects of rocketry.

Eaton walks his seventh-grade students through the history of rocketry, beginning in 400 B.C.

"Mr. Tselides takes off and takes them into the modern era," Eaton said.

Eighth-grade students will design and test a model rocket on Space CAD, a computer program. Then, they will build a model rocket from scratch and test their models in actual flight.

"Students are going to build rockets and understand why they work and why they designed them the way they did," Eaton said. "We want to help students understand they are smart. They can do it."

River Bend Middle School PTA member Michelle Johnson said the technical education students are excited to be there and to learn. Her son, Chris, is an eighth-grader and technical education student.

"The Loudoun Education Foundation supplies a lot of money to promote extra programs like this one," she said.

THE LOUDOUN EDUCATION Foundation supplied Sugarland Elementary School with a $500 grant for its project, Travels with Amigo: A Community Writing Project for Linguistically Diverse Third-Grade Classes.

Sugarland Elementary third-grade and ESL teachers Shannon Abel, Shalonda Dixon, Jennifer Erne, Courtney Petralia, Wendy Shifflett and Alexandra Wong created this program to promote parent involvement in school and in some cases, to improve English-writing skills.

Approximately one-fourth of Sugarland’s students are enrolled in the ESL program there.

Each week, four third-graders take Amigo the Wildcat, a small stuffed animal and a backpack filled with writing supplies including a travel journal and digital camera home.

"Wherever they go over the course of the week, they take a picture and write about it in their journal," Wong said. "We want students to see writing as an enjoyable activity."

The teacher’s provide support to parents and students by providing a word list and graphic organizers in both English and Spanish.

"Travels with Amigo targets ESL students and helps us make connections with parents," said Sugarland Elementary School principal Jennifer Ostrowski. "It is a nice way to bring what is going on at home into our schools."

SUGARLAND ELEMENTARY School teacher Cheryl Wyant was awarded $500 to help improve English-language skills in kindergarten, first- and second-graders.

"We have a lot of second-language learners at our school," Wyant said. "Often, we find that they lack some vocabulary, especially book language."

Wyant plans to read to students 20 minutes before school.

"Usually, our students sit in the gym for 20 minutes in the morning," she said. "I thought it would be great to read to them during this time."

Wyant hopes this project will spark ESL students interest in reading and increase their English vocabulary.

THE LOUDOUN EDUCATION Foundation provided Loudoun County Public School teachers 26 grants, totaling $14,510. Teachers submitted detailed applications, outlining their projects’ goals and expenses. Grants were awarded to nine elementary schools, 12 middle and intermediate schools and four high schools or technical schools.

"These grants mean a lot," Ostrowski said.

Loudoun Education Foundation executive director Joan Rackham described the selection process as a rigorous one.

"We received about one-third more applications then we selected," she said.

To Rackham, the most rewarding part of her job is seeing the impact Loudoun Education Foundation grants have on Loudoun County schools.

"I am most pleased when I see the impact of grants in their implemented forms. We grant money to a whole array or projects and programs that contribute to the excellence of education in the county," she said. "We raise funds through the private sector to fund public schools without tapping into tax dollars."