They say go big or go home, and this year the North East Educational Foundation (NEEF) went BIG! NEEF kicked off the distribution of over $300,000 in Innovative Grants to North East ISD teachers with the ‘Innovation Celebration Grant Tour.’ Community partners, Board of Directors, members of the LEE High School Drumline and Sparky the NEEF mascot hopped on a school bus driven by Associate Superintendent, Ron Clary, and surprised teachers at three elementary campuses.
The first stop on the tour was Northern Hills Elementary School where Ginger Cunningham was awarded a grant in the amount of $5,141 to fund a Special Education Sensory Room.
“The plan is for it to be pre-emptive,” Cunningham explained through tears of joy. “A place to go to help ground and focus the students. This is so that when they walk back into the classroom they are more focused.”
The next stop on the tour was to surprise Marcy Hildebrand at Northwood Elementary School with a $3,762 grant for collaborative common learning areas that will increase critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills. Dozens of members of the tour packed into Ms. Hildebrand’s classroom to make the surprise announcement in front of her students.
“In order to make my job meaningful there are lots of tools that I wish I had,” said Hildebrand. “This grant is going to provide a space where all our kids can learn together in a comfortable and expressive atmosphere. I cannot thank you all enough for this money. It will help in so many ways.”
The final stop of the day on the ‘Innovation Celebration Grant Tour’ was Oak Grove Elementary School to surprise not one but two teachers with separate grants. As the LEE High School drummers lead the way, the tour members filled the library for the final surprises. Laurie Tuttle’s $4,000 grant will be used to purchase dual language materials for pre-k and kindergarten learners, while Melissa Hardin was surprised with a $7,562 grant for the campus STEAM club which includes robots, coding workshops and engineering shops.
“Thank you so very much,” said Hardin. “As most of you know, STEAM is super important because a lot of our students are going to have jobs that do not even exist yet. This will provide a lot of new technology and new resources to get kids hands-on learning that they normally would not have the opportunity to experience.”
The Innovation Celebration Grant Tour could not have been possible without the generous financial support from so many businesses and individuals. Particularly the companies who donated over $5,000 in the past year and joined the tour to surprise the teachers:
LPA, Energy Testing & Balancing, H-E-B, Cleary Zimmermann, Marksmen GC, Pfluger Architects, Joeris, PBK, Terracon, Zachry Construction, RBFCU Retirement, Jostens/High School Achievements, Guido Construction and Garza/Bomberger & Associates.