TRTF 2019 Classroom Assistance Grant Recipients Announced!

Now in its twelfth year, our Classroom Assistance Grant program has provided $93,000 to Texas public school teachers since 2008, including thirty $500 grants this year. This year, we received 173 teacher grant applications! Choosing thirty recipients from this impressive group of teachers was very challenging for the grant committee.


Amanda Jackson and co-applicant Maranda Glover are special education teachers at Summer Creek High School in Houston. They will use their funds to create a Life Skills apartment for their special needs students so that they may practice skills such as meal preparation and cleaning, ultimately teaching them to live independently.

Pictured left to right are: Pat Kahak and Carolyn Mashburn, Humble Area RTA officers; Lakeesha Anderson, lead teacher for the Special Education Department; Maranda Glover and Amanda Jackson, TRTF Grant winners; Mary Widmier, District 4 President; and Brent McDonald, Principal.  

Andrea Cabanas, an English teacher at Brandeis High School in San Antonio, will purchase a class set of Merge Cubes and virtual reality headsets to introduce cross-curriculum instruction to her students. For example, students will be able to hold a virtual beating heart while learning about the cardiovascular system.

Caren Lawrence will conduct a DNA-modeling workshop for her fellow teachers at Bedford Junior High and across the Bedford district. With the grant, her coworkers will not have to purchase their own supplies.

Dawn Jagger, an art teacher at Sinton High School, will fund a trip for her students to Nueces Delta Preserve, where they will paint on location using plein air painting. They will learn about land management and conservation and observe local wildlife.

Denise Sanders, who works at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders in Austin, teaches a Biomedical Sciences course for seniors. Her students will work with Dr. Mackrell at the University of Texas on a molecular biology project and will need micropipettors and a research grade electrophoresis power supply and apparatus.

L to r: TRTA Associate Director Cindee Sharp, TRTA Administrative Assistant Sarah Richardson, and grant recipient Denise Sanders.

Derek Wuthrich teaches science at Graford Junior High. He will conduct a Force and Mass acceleration project for his students using Estes Rocket packs.

Gerald Chapa plans to jumpstart a full-fledged publications class at Apollo Junior High in Richardson. He will purchase a set of quality digital cameras to get started.

Jenni Pilant-Rey works at Fannin Elementary in El Paso and helps conduct a biweekly after school enrichment program that uses Wonder Workshop Dash robots to teach students how to code. With the funds, she will be able to purchase three more robots.

Jody Moss teaches medical microbiology at Hardin Jefferson High School in Sour Lake. She will purchase materials for the antimicrobial resistance lab, including antibiotics, organisms, and forceps.

L to r: Sharon Richard of Hardin County RTA, grant recipient Jody Moss, and Hardin-Jefferson High School principal Patrick Brown.

Julie Rhea, a STEM teacher at Bland Middle School in Celeste, will purchase a PITSCO-AP Rocket Launcher so that her students can build and launch straw and paper rockets. They will learn about angles and trajectory, and how air pressure affects distance.

Justin Harper, a Grand Prairie High School law enforcement teacher, will construct simulated crime scenes for students to investigate. Funds will purchase digital cameras, tape measures, fingerprint tape and powder, sketching materials, and more!

Katie Spence will purchase copies of the graphic novel Persepolis for her AP English students at Atascocita High School in Humble. Students will learn to discuss visual rhetoric, such as panels, frames, gutter space and graphic weight.

Pictured left to right are: Pat Winkler, Foundation Liaison and Pat Kahak, President of Humble Area RTA; Katie Spence, AP English teacher at Atascocita High School; Meredith LeBlanc, Assistant Principal; and Mary Widmier, District 4 President.

Kelli Snyder, a librarian at Bledsoe Elementary in Frisco, will promote children’s literacy through STEM by pairing books with Ozobot robots. The books include Read Triangle by Mac Barnett and Ice Boy by David Ezra Stein, among others.

Frisco ARSP President Sandy Carlisle, Max Bledsoe (school namesake!), Bledsoe Librarian Kelli Snyder, and her Principal Sherry Klingenberg.

Kellie Morris, an agriculture teacher at DeLeon High School, will fund an ongoing project that begins with hatching eggs and raising small chicks to pullet stage. With the funds, she will purchase an incubator, ovoscope, chick warmer, scale, thermometer, brooder box, camera and more to teach her students about life cycles and habitats.

Laura Krakehl teaches at Hidden Hollow Elementary in Kingwood. She will purchase Ozobot Educator Kits, a Construction Accessory Kit, and more to teach her students how to code robots to achieve missions.

Laura Krakehl (center) at Hidden Hollow Elementary was one of 5 Humble ISD teachers to receive a $500 grant from TRTF. Also pictured is Principal Janice Wiederhold, Assistant Principal Stephanie Patterson , and members from the District 4 local unit of Humble ART—Pat Winkler, Mary Widmier, Pat Kahak, and Carolyn Mashburn.

Lea Colby will transport 80 students to the Dallas Holocaust Museum from West Rusk High School in New London to help them better understand the enormity of the catastrophe. The funds will help offset the cost of the trip so that more students will be able to afford to participate.

Leah Pinto teaches a 7th grade STEM class at Bruce Junior High in Gilmer. She will purchase six Ozobot Evo app-connected coding robots to improve her students’ coding proficiency.

Presentation of the classroom grant to Leah Pinto of Gilmer ISD, featuring members of the TRTA local unit Upshur County RSEA and TRTF Trustee Mary Nell Short.

Marissa Church will purchase breakout room kits for her Kennedale High School biology students. The kits encourage problem-solving in unique ways and foster collaboration among students.

Mary Lynn Patterson works at Martha and Josh Morriss Math and Engineering Elementary School in Texarkana. She will purchase a Brainpop Jr. class subscription, Rory’s Story Cubes, and wobble chairs for her ELA/Science students.

Mary Lynn Patterson of Texarkana ISD receiving her classroom grant from TRTF, featuring members of the TRTA local unit Texarkana-Bowie County RTA and Trustee Mary Nell Short.

Megan Skipworth, a librarian at Captain John L. Chapin High School in El Paso, will host a ComiCon-style event to promote literacy. The event will include STEM activities, crafts, board games and a trading card tournament. She will purchase high interest comic books and graphic novels to give to students at the event.

Molly Marek will install an outdoor learning center at STEAM Middle School in Burleson. She will purchase materials so that students can design and build “Biodiversity Beds” and “Inquiry Beds,” including compost, lumber, starter seeds, and compost.

Nathan Melson will start up an Agrobotics program at Dodd City School by purchasing a starter set of Lego EV3 hardware. This unique program will help students survey crops and livestock with drones and allow them to participate in state competitions.

Philip Beard teaches underwater welding at Comanche High School. In order to incorporate full submersion of participants, Beard will purchase a small swimming pool or plastic storage tank.

Robert Barbosa will implement a Cost of Freedom project for his Modern American Combat Studies students at Sharyland High School in Mission. Commemorating the 75th anniversary of the conclusion of World War II, students will create an exhibit as well as a video by interviewing local veterans.

Samantha Keaton’s students at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy in Fort Worth hand-paint and donate literacy-themed chairs to local elementary schools. With the funds, supplies will be purchased to sand and paint the chairs, as well as tools for building small tables and benches to accompany the chairs.

Shannon Hodges, a kindergarten ESL teacher at Carlisle ISD in Henderson, will help her students develop writing skills using Picture Word Cards, Writing Process Folders, and Dot and Learn Journals.

Shawn Reeves will add to the recently developed outdoor learning area at T.G. Givens Early Childhood Center in Paris by creating a Sound Wall and Music Garden. To create these stations, Shawn will purchase raw materials and metal and plastic items to create various sounds.

Presentation of Classroom grant to Shawn Reeves of Paris ISD, along with students from his class and members of the TRTA local unit Lamar-Delta RTSEA and Trustee Mary Nell Short.

Stephanie Gay will teach her students at Grady B. Rasco Middle School in Lake Jackson how energy travels through a food chain by having them dissect owl pellets. With the funds, 250 pellets will be purchased, allowing 450 students to participate in the project.

Pictured left to right are: Janet Jackson, Foundation Liaison, and Mary Beth Blankenship, President of Brazosport ARSP; Jennifer Gonzales, Principal of Rasco Middle School; Stephanie Gay, 6th Grade Science Teacher; Mary Widmier, District 4 President; and Ella Gauthier, TRTA Secretary/Treasurer.

Ursula Patterson will create Gus’s Friends Sensory Area/Room to help special needs students de-escalate from sensory overload, installing a textured wall and floor as well as black lights and meteor shower LED lights for students with visual impairments. Ursula works at Groves Elementary in Humble.

Pictured left to right are: Pat Winkler, Foundation Liaison and Pat Kahak, President of Humble Area RTA; Ursula Patterson, Life Skills Teacher at Groves Elementary; Dr. Brian Peters, Principal; and Mary Widmier, District 4 President.

Wendy De La Cruz will purchase a class kit of composable and decomposable ten frames for her math students at Wilshire Elementary in San Antonio, allowing students to explore, model and develop understanding of place value and decimals.