Classroom Assistance Grant Recipients

TRTF’s Classroom Assistance Grant program helps teachers improve the learning environment for students by giving $500 to 30 recipients towards projects, learning platforms, software, and much more. TRTF is proud to announce the following grant winners for 2020:

Amber Prentice teaches Technology and Robotics to Pre-K through 5th grade students at Buffalo Gap Elementary in Tuscola. She will use her grant funds to purchase a Lego Mindstorms EV4 kit to expand the robotics program she began six years ago. The kit enables students to build a robot to help them solve a real-world problem they face in today’s environment.

April Ollila teaches 5th grade Science and Social Studies at Whitesboro Intermediate. The school recently added space for a new science lab but had no funds for supplies. With her grant, April will purchase supplies such as STEM activity Snap Circuits, Magnets, and Force and Motion kits as well as rock and mineral collections and a magnetic solar system. The lab will be available to more than 400 students.

Brandon Jones is a Graphic Design and Audio/Visual teacher at Mineral Wells High School. With the purchase of a digital single-lens reflex camera (DSLR), students will create videos recognizing the outstanding academic and extracurricular accomplishments of their fellow classmates. They will also create advertisements for the football video board.

Christina Cook works at Pleasant Grove Intermediate School in Texarkana teaching Fine Arts. She will use her grant to create a shadow puppetry project, creating a stage and constructing new puppets. The project will enable students to explore the history and origins of the art form, practice scientific and mathematical roleplaying, and emphasize literacy through storytelling and character creation.

Christy Paul is an Early Childhood and Special Education teacher at Charles L. Kuentz, Jr. Elementary School in Helotes. To create a student-centered sensory supportive environment, Christy and her fellow educators will construct boards to stimulate the primary senses of sight, touch, smell, hearing, vestibular and proprioception. Funds will be used to buy switches, handles, sandpaper, feathers, foam, glitter, textured tiles, buttons, tree bark and much more.

Dana Beal teaches Life Skills at Gilmer Intermediate. Her “Sunny the Shark” project will teach her students with intellectual disabilities how to shop for groceries, understand nutritional value, cook, and engage in fitness activities. Her grant will go toward buying a blender, waffle maker, rolling cart, reusable plastic dishware, yoga mats, junior basketballs and much more.

Dawn Chegwidden works at Lewisville High School and teaches Aquatic Science and Environmental Systems. She will have her students design and construct bottle ecosystems, which include aquarium gravel, water conditioner, garden soil, guppies, earthworms, water quality testing kits, duckweed and more. Students will analyze the cycling of nutrients in their ecosystems and assess water quality, among other quantitative and qualitative activities. 

Elizabeth Brannen is a Special Education teacher at Paris High School. She will create a sensory room for her students with Autism Spectrum Disorder. For example, she will purchase sensory balls, chew items, timers, visual supports, social narrative posters, and an interactive light wall. This project will help her students learn how to interact with their environment and with other people.

Gayle Waldrip teaches Physics and Forensics at Teague High School. The THS Flying Project will have her Physics students visit iFly World-Dallas and perform hands-on experiments in the wind tunnel on motion, velocity, displacement, acceleration, and forces. Funds from TRTF will help pay for student admission to iFly.

Haylee Miller teaches 4th grade Writing and Science at A.C. Williams Elementary in Commerce. She will add a classroom aquarium and butterfly kit to give her students a real-world habitat to observe, discuss, and write about. Haylee will purchase guppies, sea flora, plants, fish food, and a Hungry Caterpillar butterfly growing kit to get her project started.

Heather Hattori teaches at Gilmer High School. Her “Amusement Park Physics” project entails purchasing K’NEX kits to build and modify ride designs such as rollercoasters, carousels and bumper cars, while assessing relationships and concepts such as freefall, projectile motion, mass, speed, acceleration, the effects of gravity, and Newton’s third law of motion. 

Heidi Blancarte is a Kindergarten through 5th grade Music teacher at Vogel Elementary in Seguin. She will purchase two glockenspiels to add to her classroom keyboards, allowing her Kindergarten through 2nd grade students to improvise and perform collaboratively while her 3rd through 5th grade students perform notation and compose ensembles. Her students will benefit by learning music vocabulary and enhancing their flexibility and problem-solving skills.

Javier Vicencio teaches Photojournalism at Grand Prairie High School and will conduct a student photo exhibit in 2020 to teach his students how to deliver products in a competitive market. Students use a digital camera to document the school year, and funds from TRTF will be used to print 25 enlargements from a selection of the best photos taken by students. The display will be featured near the school entrance for all students, teachers, and parents to enjoy.

Joanna Smith teaches 10th and 11th grade Chemistry and Physics at Collinsville High School. Her project will use a ripple tank to allow her students to generate waves and observe diffraction and interference phenomena which can only be explained by the wave theory of light. She will use her funds to purchase the tank, a DC power supply, and other supplies.

Justin Harper conducts the Law and Public Safety Program at Grand Prairie High School. His project will allow students to learn about the detection, apprehension, and arrest of an intoxicated driver by using drunk goggles to assess the effects of intoxication on a person’s mental faculties. They will also learn about conducting field sobriety tests and proper documentation. The skills will be used in the classroom and at SkillsUSA and Police Explorer competitions.

Kaitlin Lunceford wants her 5th grade Science students at A.C. Williams Elementary in Commerce to be able to create and edit their own weather/news forecast. By purchasing a greenscreen, tripod, camcorder, and video editing software, they will be able to record videos of their forecasts as well as edit them on the computer to enhance their technological skills.

LaShel Rowton is a Physical Education teacher at Walt Disney Elementary in Alvin. She will implement 9 Square in the Air, which incorporates volleyball skills such as setting, tipping, and bumping while implementing rules, procedure, etiquette, and respect for others’ physical abilities. LaShel will purchase the Deluxe game set, enabling students in 3rd through 5th grade to participate in moderate to vigorous exercise and learn perseverance through practice. 
Laura Younts works with dyslexic students at Barton Middle School in Buda. Laura will purchase an iPad with her grant funds, allowing her students to download audiobooks on topics that interest them. The audiobooks encourage a love of reading for students who may be frustrated with challenging words, and in turn, their self-esteem and confidence will be boosted by enjoying books other classmates are reading.

Lilia Romero teaches Spanish at Lee High School in Midland. Students in her Ready, Set, Teach! program (as part of Texas Association of Future Educators) perform good deeds in the community, such as working with Big Brother Big Sister or Meals on Wheels. They document their participation using project boards that are later showcased at TAFE state competitions. The funds will be used to pay for materials such as trifold boards, cardstock, borders, and Cricut supplies.

Linda Johnson is a Kindergarten teacher at S & S Elementary School in Southmayd. She plans to develop a STEM center that will cover such concepts as inclines, spatial shapes, patterns, basic engineering concepts, magnetic forces and even robotic coding. Students will build a three-dimensional rollercoaster using the Lakeshore Learning STEM kits purchased with the grant funds.

Lucinda Herrera is a Pre-K through 5th grade librarian at Colby Glass Elementary School in San Antonio. She will use her funds to buy books for the school’s book vending machine, which operates on golden tokens students receive for good behavior as indicated by the NISD Character Counts! standards. The standards promote trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. A variety of books appropriate for ages 4 to 12 will be included in the machine. 

Margaret London teaches 4th grade Reading and Social Studies at A.C. Williams Elementary in Commerce. She will use her grant funds to expand her classroom library, adding more than 25 culturally diverse titles of varying reading levels and genres to her collection. She will be able to buy at least two copies of each book, such as The Year of the Dog, Grace for President, Pablo’s Tree, and Dream Big.

Mario Ponciano works for East Terrell Hills Elementary in San Antonio. He will incorporate Sphero Bolt devices and a Code Mat in his classroom to enhance math lessons for his Special Education and ELAR students. For example, students will be able to learn number sense using skip counting and incremental jumps, obtaining mastery through manipulation.

Marissa Church teaches Biology at Kennedale High School. Using microliter mini pipettes and micropipette tips, her students will be able to solve a forensic case using simulations of DNA from a crime scene. She hopes this project will generate interest in science as a potential career as her students test tools used in real-life work environments. 

Dr. Nathan Melson is a STEAM teacher and Robotics Director and Coach at Dodd City High School. His students have recently been able to participate in VEX Robotics competitions and need additional hardware to maintain a competitive edge and grow the school’s program. With the funds from TRTF, Dr. Melson will purchase a V5 System Bundle.

Rachel Dearinger teaches Photojournalism and Broadcast Journalism at Legacy High School in Mansfield. With her funds, she will teach her students to paint with light using a Pixelstick and a slow shutter speed technique. Her goal is for her students to learn that photography is about more than what is captured, but also what is created. She will be able to purchase the Pixelstick, carrying case, and accompanying remote control device with her grant funds.

Roberto Barbosa teaches World Geography and U.S. History at Sharyland High School in Mission. Roberto will purchase a Museum in a Box kit. His students will then identify, digitally design, and 3D-print a civilization’s artifact, then develop a script and record audio after researching the artifact. NFC sticker sensors will be placed on the artifacts, and the audio will play automatically when placed on the Museum in a Box kit.

Samantha Keaton teaches Social Studies and Leadership at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Ft. Worth. For five years, her students have been refurbishing and painting literacy chairs to match themes from popular children’s books and donating them to a local elementary school. With the funds from TRTF, Samantha will purchase tools for repairing the chairs, sandpaper, and paint, as well as wood to begin building small benches.

Sara Williams teaches English and AP Language Arts at Atascocita High School in Humble. She will purchase 32 copies of They Called Us Enemy, a graphic novel that examines the life of a family in a Japanese internment camp during World War II. She hopes this will encourage academic discourse among students and enable them to appreciate the cultural diversity present on campus.

Shannon Hodges is a Kindergarten ESL teacher at Carlisle Elementary in Price. She will develop a designated listening center in her classroom. She will purchase a variety of books and manipulatives—such as building blocks, magnetic letters, and sight-word games—allowing students to read and listen to books daily to enhance their reading, comprehension, and vocabulary.