Pickerington Education Foundation awards $25,000 in classroom, building grants

Nate Ellis
ThisWeek group
Pickerington Schools

The Pickerington Education Foundation awarded $25,000 in grants to teachers and buildings in the district for items like headphones and literacy development, as well as programs and space to address emotional health of students and staff.

In 2004, the nonprofit PEF was founded as a public charity within the Fairfield County Foundation designed to support and enrich the educational process in Pickerington Schools.

Since that time, a PEF committee annually has selected classroom and building programs and projects to support.

Although the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic scuttled the awards in 2020, the PEF on Jan. 20 announced this year’s grant recipients.

A total of $25,000 was given to 19 classrooms and three buildings in the district.

“This is always fun,” PEF President Lori Sanders said. “The applicants have to show how their requests tie into building goals, district goals, and then we look at what serves the most students and what items could be reused.

“Everything that gets funded is an enhancement- and enrichment-type of program.”

This year’s awards ranged from a $314 to $5,000.

For $314, Ericka Schoenbeck, a music teacher at Hertitage and Pickerington elementary schools, will purchase Specdrums, percussive rings that light up and aid in basic computer coding and music literacy. Her application said the equipment would serve about 600 students in first through fourth grades.

The $5,000 grant went to Pickerington High School Central, which will use the funds to create a Stress Management and Resiliency Training (SMART) Lab to address the social-emotional well-being of all students and staff.

“We provide the space for all of PHSC to work on regulating and monitoring our social-emotional health,” Central Principal Stacy Tennenbaum said. “We will also provide some mobile opportunities for use in the classroom. 

“These labs provide activities and programs that assist in regulating breathing, developing relaxation techniques, participating in physical movement, reading resources and places to talk.”

Tennenbaum said increased focus on social-emotional health helps build “an environment of belonging, safety and comfort that will allow for an enhanced learning environment and a positive school culture.”

“We recognize that when we are calm and alert, we can improve our decision-making skills and performance. We are equipping ourselves to handle difficult challenges in life by learning to settle our stress response so that we can access our ‘thinking brains.’

“This will also improve our ability to relate to one another. From a big picture perspective, this supports our (district) Plan for Progress Whole Child and Relationships approach, as well as the recommendations from the state for developing social-emotional skills.” 

Fairfield Elementary School was another recipient of a building grant, receiving $4,400 to purchase Geodes Kits, a collection of knowledge-building books for emerging and developing readers.

In citing a need for the literacy-building materials, Kelli Koch, the school's instructional coach, noted the school’s diverse student-body population.

Her grant application stated roughly 20% of Fairfield’s students are English-language learners, and approximately 40% qualify for free and reduced-price lunches.

“Each of the books in the classroom kit enables students to apply decoding skills while learning about the important ideas in science, history and the arts that they are learning in their Wit and Wisdom modules,” Koch said. “One of the biggest benefits of our Wit and Wisdom program is it allows us to fill the knowledge gap for our students.

“The books in the Geodes Kits allow students to apply their specific decoding strategies taught through (the district’s K-3 phonics program) while allowing students to build content and vocabulary knowledge.”

Koch said the Geodes books will be used in grades K-2 and possibly by third-graders.  

“According to the needs of the students in any given year, these could impact between 150 and 250 students each year,” she said.   

Other PEF grant recipients included: 

• Pamela Bergau Hart, Sycamore Creek Elementary Preschool, $1,000 for motor-skills development materials

• Michelle Davis, Tussing Elementary, $702 for decodable books

• Katie Dominguez, Shawna Hissom and Shannon Murphy, Pickerington Elementary, $750 for a "coffee cart" to develop students math, economics and communications skills

• Darren Drake, Toll Gate Elementary, $554 for devices that help students recognize signs of being overwhelmed, anxious or scattered

• Megan Ferne and Tammy Kulp, Ridgeview Junior High School, $1,000 for student school and hygiene supplies

• Tracey Gates, Toll Gate Elementary, $348 for toys to teaching computer coding

• Karen George, Pickerington High School North, $1,000 for two stationary bicycles to be installed in the media center to encourage literacy and fitness

• Sarah Jones, Heritage Elementary and Pickerington Elementary, $937 for technology and coding kits

• Shannon Kovarik, Fairfield Elementary, $937 for materials to support literacy, communications, engineering and artistic development

• Jen Lennox-Chiudoni, Diley and Harmon middle schools, $1,000 for ukuleles 

• Julie Lewis, Pickerington Elementary, $750 to expand the school media center for literacy-based activities

• Kathy Lyons, Heritage Elementary, $560 for magazine subscriptions to support literacy and social studies learning

• Scott Mackey, Fairfield Elementary, $750 for materials to support creativity, collaboration, citizenship, critical thinking, and communication

• Shannon Manalac, Pickerington Elementary, $1,000 to repaint the school's recess playground

• Melissa Peine, Fairfield Elementary, $800 for decodable books

• Angela Rogers, Pickerington Elementary, $762 for technology kits that include games and equipment to enhance district-issued computer tablets

• Eric Rutter, PHS North, $1,000 to expand the school's SMART Lab

• Kendra Stewart, Pickerington Elementary, $1,000 to create sensory walks within the school's hallways

• Tussing Elementary, approximately $1,500 for equipment to help students recognize signs of being overwhelmed, anxious or scattered

nellis@thisweeknews.com

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