Each year, WakeEd Partnership helps WCPSS educators bring their classroom dreams to life through our Teacher Innovation Grants program. Since the program’s inception, we have invested more than $1.5 million for teachers to bring innovative learning experiences and resources to thousands of students. Last year, Teacher Innovation Grant projects reached more than 4,400 students in Wake County; the overall impact of these grants is much greater. When a community unites to support inspired educators, new ideas evolve into best practices, which ultimately improve education across the country.
Ideas for Teacher Innovation Grants begin with a simple question: “What would happen if…?” Teachers across our county seek to engage their students in new and exciting ways; they may need additional funding to support their project ideas. Teachers need funding for professional development and class field trips. They need resources to support project based learning in their classrooms. Many need help creating makerspaces or designing collaborative learning areas within their schools. Though extremely diverse in nature, all of these projects seek to prepare students for life after graduation. By engaging the business community in supporting public education, WakeEd was able to fund 146 of these projects in 81 Wake County Public Schools over the last five years.
What does this impact look like across the county? In five years, we have given more than $300,000 directly to teachers. Of those grants, 24%, approximately $82,000 total, were given to schools in southern Wake County.
Although grants have been fairly evenly distributed across the county, WakeEd Teacher Innovation Grants have reached more elementary school classrooms than middle school and high school classrooms combined. In the last five years, the highest number of grants has been awarded to Lincoln Heights Elementary School for projects in almost every grant category.
One grant category in particular is responding to an increasing need in our school district. The Center for Disease Control estimates that 1 in 58 children in North Carolina may be diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. During the 2015-2016 school year, there were approximately 2,440 students with autism in Wake County Public Schools. The number of students with autism has increased almost 17% in four years, and with an increasing number of students, comes an increasing need for support. In the last two years, Waked has given $14,073 to support children with Autism in six different Wake County Public Schools: Fuquay-Varina Middle School, Heritage High School, Lincoln Heights Elementary School, East Cary Middle School, East Garner Middle School, and Timber Drive Elementary School. Funding in this category of grants is supported by the annual Hit It Far for Kirby golf tournament sponsored by the Roberson family in honor of their son Kirby.
During the 2015-2016 school year, Lincoln Heights educator Elizabeth Propp used her Teacher Innovation Grant to build a butterfly garden on campus. Far more than simply a home for wildlife, this garden provided hands-on learning experiences for her special education students and benefited the entire school community. Over the course of the year, they investigated butterfly life cycles, developed strategies for increasing populations, and maintained the habitat. They took field trips and even wrote stories about the butterflies, which are proudly displayed in the WakeEd office. The butterfly garden succeeded in engaging Mrs. Propp’s students through multi-sensory, multi-dimensional, and innovative instruction for language arts, math, and science. Mrs. Propp received another grant in the fall of 2016 that is helping her students, once again, make meaningful connections, as they study the effect of weather patterns on communities.
Click to learn more about our Teacher Innovation Grant program. Applications for the 2017-2018 school year will be available on March 1.