Staff Idea Grant Program
Staff Idea Grants are one of the most effective means of encouraging innovative upgrading
of classroom materials and technology and promotion of staff development that is beyond the
resources of the Hastings Public Schools. For the 2014-15 school year, the Hastings Public
Schools Foundation will expend $10,455 for Staff Idea Grants that will impact fourteen teachers
and their classrooms. These particular grants are made possible through donations from Wells
Fargo Bank, the Hastings Philanthropic Yoga Society, Hastings Public Schools employees, and
matching funds from the Kinman Oldfield Family Trust.
Jayson Stoddard, Deanna Dirks, Mike Trindle, and Beth Kohmetscher—Hastings Middle School
Kim Remmers—Grade 4, Hawthorne Elementary School
Expanding Differentiated Instruction. Kim’s goal is to approach students with varied learning styles and levels of academic achievement through differentiated instruction. Students will expand their knowledge in math and language arts through active participation using a program that involves visual and kinesthetic manipulative devices, including vinyl dots and hot dots, along with accompanying academic program materials provided through this grant. The manipulative devices and program materials will be used for individuals and small groups during intervention, enrichment periods, and whole group instruction. $996.38
Hastings Middle School Gardens: raised-bed. Funds will allow this group of teachers to take the initial steps toward the formation of a community garden. Funding will provide this team with start-up funds to purchase materials for the construction of several raised bed gardens. “Access to a garden would provide students with the opportunity to correlate their curriculum with hands-on learning that is and will be taking place outside.” Members of the community will be offered the opportunity to participate in a number of ways. Interested students will be given the opportunity to care for a garden under the supervision of HMS staff and members of the community. Privately funded: $973.44
Leslee Wischmeier—Grade 4, Watson Elementary School
Now “NATS” What I Call Science. Leslee’s grant will allow her to attend the 2012 Nebraska Academy of Teachers of Science (NATS) Conference in the fall of 2012. In 2011, Leslee presented research involving creative scientific inquiry in the classroom to the Academy. Leslee feels that her experience with scientific inquiry in her own classroom has resulted in an “amazing transformation . . . from the first day” this process was started. “With these changes in their [students’] attitudes toward science came the opportunity to differentiate to each child’s needs in a very specific way. Students experiment at their level, then learn and grow from that point.” Leslee is determined to build on this innovative, differentiated approach to teaching science through her participation in the NATS Conference. $542
Erica Jenkins—Grade 5, Alcott Elementary School
iPads=I Can, I Will, Because My Education Matters! Erica will use funds from her grant to purchase two iPads to be used by her students. Erica will incorporate the iPads as “engaging intervention pieces for literacy and math.” According to a study done by Pepperdine University, students are much more engaged while using iPads and more likely to share their learning with other students. In addition, Erica observes that many students in her classroom are kinesthetic learners. iPads will allow these students to use their hands to guide their learning. Erica hopes to increase student fluency, vocabulary, and overall comprehension. She will also use the iPads as integration tools for math problem solving and computation, writing, social studies, and science. $1,000
Amy Swayze & Pam Davis—Hastings Public Schools Community Liaisons
Project Dress Up. Hastings Public Schools has witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of homeless, near homeless, and poverty stricken families in recent years. Many families are struggling to meet their basic needs. This grant will provide supplies of clothing, shoes, underwear, socks, etc., that cannot be found at used-clothing outlets, or so that a child can, maybe for the first time ever, have a brand new shirt, pair of shoes or jeans. As the grantees observe, “To see a child light up when s/he is given a brand new pair of shoes for the first time is priceless. Our students don’t care if they are Nike, Adidas, or Starter Shoes from Wal-mart. What makes the difference for them is that they are new and no one else has ever worn them. Boosting a child’s self esteem can only improve his or her attendance and academic performance.” Privately funded: $1,000 plus.
Jan Herbek—Grade 5, Morton Elementary School
Classroom Amplification System. This grant will help to purchase a Redcat Infrared classroom amplification system for the fifth-grade classroom at Morton. The Redcat system by Lightspeed is portable and can be transferred to other locations. The system consists of a wireless speaker that is placed on a shelf at the rear of the room; the teacher wears a microphone; and a second microphone can be passed around by the students or attached to the computer so that websites and DVDs can be heard through the same speaker. According to Jan, this system can increase speech intelligibility so students will hear every word. Research shows that amplification systems improve the learning environment, decrease the need to repeat instructions, improve attention spans, decrease transition time, increase the ability for students to learn, are easy to use, decrease fatigue and increase test scores. Partially funded: $716
Lynn Kaiser & Jim Kaiser—Instrumental Music, Alcott Elementary School as a pilot program
Rotating Violin Lab. The purpose of this grant is to provide more opportunities for needy students to play an instrument, in particular the violin. Five ½ and ¾ size violins will be purchased for the Rotating Violin Lab. Need-based 4th grade students will qualify for this lab program. As these students go into the 5th grade, options for rental violins become available through the school. The lab violins would be re-used in following years by in-coming need-based 4th grade students. An added benefit is that, according to the Kaisers, research shows that “there is a long-standing correlation between kids who play music and SAT scores, graduation rates, and attendance. . . . Like reading, science, and other disciplines, it is important that the sequence of music is maintained and started at a young age.” $945
Ann Mays & Greg Mays—Hastings High School
National History Day: Opening the Experience to All Students. This grant will allow only those students who qualify for free or reduced lunches to obtain the entry fees and some supplies so that they may participate in National History Day. Students who compete conduct extensive research into a historical topic and present their findings at regional and state competitions. According to Ann and Greg, “Students develop not only research skills, but learn to tackle long-range projects, present in a real world situation, and creatively solve problems. This grant will “even the playing field” and encourage students from families with limited means to participate.” $300
Faye Friesen & Kim Vogt—Media Specialists, Hastings High School & Hastings Middle School
Media Specialists as Educational Technology Teachers. This grant will provide funding for these two media specialists to attend the International Society for Technology in Education (ITSE) Conference in San Diego, California, June 25-June 27, 2012. According to Faye and Kim, “The roles of media specialists are changing at warp speed. Medial specialists are the specialists charged with teaching not only students but also teachers how to incorporate a variety of technologies into their classrooms.” These ladies will come back to their schools prepared to give teachers and students new and innovative ways to use technology in the classroom. $2,000
Karen Harvey Holmes—Counselor, Morton Elementary School
Morton Elementary Career Fair. According to recent research, “The primary reason that poverty-level children, particularly those of Hispanic cultures, do not succeed academically is the absence of hope and vision, or a personal picture of himself/herself succeeding. A mindset of a lifetime of poverty is created because that is all s/he knows. The Gallup industry has provided measurable data about the power of hope in educational settings. Grant funding will provide Morton Elementary the chance to create a career fair to assist students in creating their personal picture and setting for believable goals. According to Karen, “Students will present their understanding of the working world and their role in it through various projects and presentations.” This will be a celebration that will also involve parents and community members. The project is also receiving support by a grant from the Hastings Business, Industry, and Education Partnership. $1,000
Nancy Oerter—Grade 2, Hawthorne Elementary School
iTouch up My Learning. For this project, $1,000 will be used to purchase  8GB iPod Touches, an iTunes gift card and Scholastic Book orders. The iPods will enable students to practice reading fluency, learn vocabulary words, listen to reading, study reading and math skills, communicate with each other and the teacher, review Social Studies and Science concepts and demonstrate knowledge gained.
Lauren Henry—Grade 2, Morton Elementary School
Differentiation of the working with words block with use of the Leapster Learning Center. For this grant, $955 will be used to purchase 4 Leapster Explorer Handhelds, 4 copies of 5 different games, 4 headphones, 4 carrying cases and 4 rechargers. The primary skills taught during the working with words block are high frequency word spelling and recognition, phonics skills and word families. The Leapster Learning system will provide a fun and engaging way to teach second graders these needed sills through fun and interactive games.
Cathy Davis & Nikki Gengenbach —Grade 2, Hastings High School
E-readers for Non Readers. This grant will utilize $1,000 to purchase 8 Kindles that will provide an electronic alternative to traditional text for resistant or struggling readers. The e-readers will be attractive to students who are technology driven by enabling them to use something new and different to enhance their reading abilities.