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Hastings Public Schools Foundation grants awards to teachers

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A number of Hastings Public School Foundation board members, selection committee members and four high school students traveled classroom to classroom awarding teachers with grants. (Star Gazette photo by Michelle Wirth)2 / 3
Hastings High School chemistry teacher Cindy Benson is all smiles when she finds out that the grant she wrote lab equipment is being awarded by the Hastings Public Schools Foundation. (Star Gazette photo by Michelle Wirth)3 / 3

The Hastings Public School Foundation awarded $64,354.25 in grants for 2017. The 18 grants were awarded to Hastings public school teachers in their classrooms Jan. 31 with a musical jingle, a certificate and an audience in tow.

Board members of the Hastings Public Schools Foundation, selection committee members and four students playing instruments traveled from classroom to classroom awarding each grant. Hastings High School students Mikki Becker, Sarah Hardy, James McCord and Elizabeth Peine used trumpets, a trombone and a snare drum to celebrate each award.

"This day is unlike any other because we are making dreams come true," said Leslie Nielson, Hastings Public Schools Foundation board member and one of the organization's founders.

Nielson said that teachers take a great deal of time and effort into formulating new ideas for how to help their students learn, so it is a joy to reward them with the financial support needed to start new programs.

"I love seeing the enthusiasm on the teachers' faces for what's going to happen in their classroom," Nielson said.

Jo Sweep, a former Hastings teacher who has been involved with the foundation since it began, said that to her, the grant awarding day is just as good as Christmas.

"Having been a teacher here, I know what these grants will accomplish in these classrooms and it's so exciting," Sweep said.

Grants that were awarded this year include funding for furniture and staff training in the HHS writing center, opportunities for students to see live professional performances of Shakespeare, lab equipment in the HHS chemistry department that is similar to what students would use if they went to work at 3M, and more.

One of the largest grants was awarded to Hastings Middle School for digital arts and animation. The $12,360 grant will be used to purchase 30 iPad mini 4s with related supplies for use by all 1,400 middle school students. The students will learn techniques and skills to create animations, digital art, graphics and photographs using the iPads and apps.

All 18 grants that were awarded are listed below.

HHS Writing Center: Writing Made Visible

Teacher/Staff: Laura Newton

Awarded: $5,315.82

The HHS Writing Center will be a place for students to compose, revise and received feedback on their writing.

Nonfiction Book Expansion — Adding Real Books into the REAL Class

Teacher/Staff: Dawn Sahouani

Awarded: $5,425

REAL is a course for students in ninth grade who are reading below grade level. The grant money will expand the REAL program's existing supply of reading materials.

Immersion in Shakespeare and Live Theater

Teacher/Staff: Mick Willette

Awarded: $1,465

Students from senior-level literature classes will attend a live performance of Shakespeare's "Macbeth" at the Park Square Theatre in St. Paul.

The Guthrie Experience: King Lear

Teacher/Staff: William Ruder

Awarded: $1,102

Students will attend the performance of "King Lear" at the Guthrie Theater.


Teacher/Staff: Jim Jacobsen

Awarded: $4,000

The grant money will help pay for a new 5-Octave Rosewood Marimba percussion instrument for the HHS band program.

More SPARK to spark Chemistry

Teacher/Staff: Cindy Benson

Awarded: $2,060

The grant money will pay for additional lab equipment that students would use if they worked at 3M and Medtronic.

Feel the Beat! Malamanya Live!

Teacher/Staff: Katy Linne

Awarded: $3,740

The HMS Band and Art Department, HHS band, orchestra and Spanish department educators will welcome the Malamanya band to HMS and HHS to share their passion for music and Latin culture.

HMS Revolving Gallery Art Frames

Teacher/Staff: Sandy Meyer

Awarded: $412.52

Additional shadow box frames will display the students' art work in the existing HMS Revolving Art Gallery.


Teacher/Staff: Carlyn Cooper

Awarded: $4,549.90

This grant will purchase 10 iPads with related supplies and materials to be used by middle school students on the Autism Spectrum.

Math Unplugged

Teacher/Staff: Jeff Hanson

Awarded: $4,860

The grant will purchase equipment, Microsoft's Surface Pro 4, Bluetooth adapters and related supplies to help create a mobile, unplugged classroom.

School-wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports at HMS

Teacher/Staff: Amy Mares

Awarded: $4,200

The grant will purchase additional supplies and materials to continue building the program.

ROAR II: Don't Call it a Comeback

Teacher/Staff: Matt Bruns

Awarded: $3,584

The grant will help purchase additional robotics supplies, materials and FIRST LEGO League competition registration fees.

Experience the World! No Bus Required

Teacher/Staff: Glenda Peak

Awarded: $720

The grant will purchase Google Cardboard viewers and related supplies to immerse students in their learning with virtual reality experiences.

Digital Arts and Animation

Teacher/Staff: Kendra Berg

Awarded: $12,360

The grant will purchase 30 iPad mini 4s with related supplies for use by all 1,400 HMS art students.

Read, Immerse, Engage, Inspire

Teacher/Staff: Melanie Rowan

Awarded: $1,107.60

The grant will purchase enough copies of six mentor texts so that each student will have their own copy to follow along as the texts are used throughout the school year.

Cool, Calm and Composed: Tools to Help Students' Sensory Needs

Teacher/ Staff: Molly Cirillo

Awarded: $3,120.16

The grant will purchase materials and supplies for a space in the McAuliffe building where students with significant developmental, social, emotional, academic and behavioral needs can go to learn.

Minds On, Hands On Math

Teacher/Staff: Annette Hanson

Awarded: $5,375

The Minds On, Hands On Math project will provide ways for students to learn the critical math skills of number sense and spatial reasoning.

Little Raiders Learn STEM

Teacher/Staff: Michelle Bump

Awarded: $957.25

The materials purchased with the grant will give preschoolers the opportunity to learn STEM skills through a hands-on approach.

Michelle Wirth

Michelle Wirth graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire in 2013 with a degree in journalism and web design. She worked as a web content editor for a trade association before coming to the Hastings Star Gazette in 2016.

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