October 17, 2012 - Christmas came a bit early for teachers in Orion this year. Santa must have had a full list this September, because teachers from across the Lake Orion district found funding for classroom tools in their stockings. Funded by the Lake Orion Education Foundation (LOEF), over $9,300 in grant money was awarded at the September 26 Lake Orion School Board meeting.
According to the LOEF website, the aim of the grants is to "enhance educational opportunities for all Lake Orion Community School District students." These grants are dispersed twice a year, in the fall and spring semesters.
Grants are distributed between Orion district elementary and middle schools, with a large portion marked for teachers at the high school. "I've seen wide range of programs and materials available to teachers that otherwise they wouldn't have been able to have," said Dianne Dunaskiss, Principal of Pine Tree Elementary School and liason between Orion schools and the LOEF board.
One of the Fall 2012 recipients is Orion Oak Elementary teacher Teresa West, who has been awarded many LOEF grants through the years. She applied for this semester's grant on behalf of the eight teachers who make up the "Upper L" team. Together, these teachers watch over about 200 students.
West targeted her grant application very carefully. This semester, her school is emphasizing the United States regions, including elections and government. The $660 she was awarded will be used to fund a supplemental weekly reader "government issue" that teaches the strudents all about the election process.
"It's like a mini-magazine," West explained. "Using that magazine, we're going to guide [students] through what are the responsibilities [and] rights of a citizen."
To illustrate these civic responsiibilites, West and the Upper L teachers at Orion Oaks will stage a mock election. "We're going to debate about who we should vote for, and then the kids are going to vote. [We'll] walk them through the whole process," West said.
Jillyan Fuller, American History teacher for the 8th graders at Oakview Middle School, had a hi-tech focus in mind when she applied for the grant application. Fuller is another multi-year recipient of the LOEF grants, and she is always thinking of ways to add resources to her students' learning arsenal.
She plans to use the $800 she won to purchase an iPad and AppleTV, which is a "way for the iPad to connect with a projector wirelessly so that whatever you're doing on the iPad will go right up on the big screen in fromt of the class," she explained.
Previously, Fuller was awarded an iPad as a member of a Lake Orion district technology committee. The LOEF grant will provide another, and along with her personal iPad that she lends to the class, she now has three for students to use. She also brings two laptops from home, and thus can have five computer work stations for her students.
How will the iPad and Apple TV help her class? One application Fuller mentioned is the ability to move around the room with the iPad and project her lesson wirelessly onto the projecter at the head of the class.
"Let's say I'm [walking around] and the kids are using their smart phones or [wireless] devices, like an iPad; . . . we can all interact in real time." Another application she will use is one called "Today's MEAP." This program allows her to put a discussion board "up on the screen [so that] all the kids can be typing their response and feeding off of each other in real time."
And unlike traditional class discussions which can discourage some from participating fully, Fuller said wireless technology adds diversity to her classroom discussions. Using the smart phones and wireless interaction, "gives everyone a voice," she confirmed.
In contrast with the hi-tech focus of Fuller's proposal, Scripps and Waldon Middle School P.E. teachers Kim McCool and Amanda Hutchinson asked for grant funds for something with a bit more, er, "soul, " shall we say. Their grant is earmarked to purchase snowshoes, a proposal inspired by their desire to "expose our students to many different options when it comes to ways they can be active throughout their life time," the teachers said.
The intent is to use the snowshoes to illustrate how to enjoy the outdoors rather than staying cooped up indoors during the winter. McCool and Hutchinson plan to have their students out walking in the snow this winter; students will receive team building experience in addition to the snowshoe practice.
The grant of $600 will purchase eight pairs of snowshoes, which are available at local sporting goods stores. Combined with two other LOEF grants, McCool and Hutchinson will acquire a total of 45 sets of snowshoes.
All teachers consulted spoke of the great relationship the Orion educational community has with LOEF. It is a "wonderful and generous initiative in the district, especially to support so many teachers with their requests," said Superintendent Marion Ginopolis.
"We'd love to give out more money to our educators," said LOEF board president Allan Brunmeier. Our "main focus is to help teachers with grants for funding for coverage they are not getting through the district."
Money for the grants is garnered through three annual fundraising events. LOEF holds a 5k run in the Spring, a golf outing just after school adjourns for the summer, and a dinner dance, scheduled this year for Oct. 27. "To me it's one of the best investments families can make if they are looking for somewhere to donate because it goes right back to their children in school," said Dunaskiss.
If you'd like to take part, LOEF board meetings are held on the first Monday of each month. For further information about the LOEF, contact Brunmeier at 248-320-6616.