Staff Idea Grant Program


STAFF IDEA GRANTS have become an important roadway for teachers to add innovative ideas and state-of-the-art technology to their classrooms. For the 2017-2018 school year, the Hastings Public Schools Foundation has awarded nine STAFF IDEA GRANTS for a total of $9016.06. These grants immediately impact 11 teachers, many, many classrooms, and the Hastings Community. We are especially grateful to Five Points Bank of Hastings, Pinnacle Bank of Hastings, and individual donors for their generosity. Their contributions also garner a 25% match from the Kinman-Oldfield Family Trust.



Andy Adams

Andrew Adams:  Elementary Chess Clubs, All five elementary buildings, $1,000

Andrew Adams received a Staff Idea Grant to obtain 50 chess boards to be distributed to after-school chess clubs in the five elementary schools.  Each school received 10 chess boards.  Mr. Adams, a music teacher at Longfellow Elementary School, has been a leader in the HPS Foundation program to initiate and support after-school chess clubs as a way to encourage positive interaction between elementary students while they are challenged to learn the difficult game of chess. These programs provide another way to challenge elementary students to grow intellectually.  During the 2016-17 school year, 10 % of all students grades 3-6 in the Hastings Public Schools elementary buildings participated in chess clubs.

Jade Bartunek

Jade Bartunek:  Flex Seating for Wiggly Kinders, Watson Elementary School, $586.06

Jade Bartunek received a Staff Idea Grant to help her Kindergarten students “release their wiggles while staying on task”.  Her grant supported the purchase of wobble chairs, scoop rockers and bubble seats.  Wobble chairs allow students to improve posture and release energy; disco seats provide comfortable places for students to read or work.  Scoop rockers help students who have difficulty sitting during circle time.  Overall, Jade feels that these options will help students manage personal space and foster better attention spans for listening and cooperating.

Mekenzie Bertrand

Bertrand McKenzie:  Operation Flexible Seating, Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, $840

Bertrand McKenzie received a Staff Idea Grant to purchase flexible seating for her 2nd grade class and as a resource for other teachers in the building to experiment with flex seating for at risk students. Bertrand explains that the logic behind flex seating is that lethargic students have lethargic brains—not a good situation in any classroom!  Research shows that flexible seating helps students burn more calories, using up excess energy; improves metabolism; increases motivation and engagement; and improves core strength and overall posture.  The seating is not necessary for all students, but it is helpful to students struggling to stay on task.

Charla Brant

Charla Brant:  Growing the Mathematical Mindset, Longfellow Elementary School, $650

Charla’s research involved a focus on changing the way we teach mathematics so that it is more visual and helpful to the growth of the “mathematical mindset.”  Charla’s grant provided resources so that she could enroll in an online course titled How to Learn Math for Teachers and also provided resources for the purchase of manipulatives and other supplies. Charla’s goal is to become a more innovative math teacher in order to help her students to grow in the area of mathematics particularly to find success in math thinking and problem solving.

Rick Matticks

Rick Matticks, Sones de Mexico Artist in Residence Program, All buildings, Grades 3 through 12, $2,000

The HPS Board of Directors Staff Idea Grant Committee made an exception for this special artist-in-residence program due to the expansive and ambitious nature of the undertaking. The goal of the program was to provide a multicultural experience for HPS students.  Students learned to compose and create original music to perform at assemblies and it a final public concert.  Students also explored the many different styles of music from Mexico and how that music demonstrates the history and culture of Mexico and the Americas.

Christine Niemeyer

Christine Niemeyer, Give it a Rest!, All five elementary buildings, $1,000

“Give it a Rest!” is designed for beginning orchestra students in grades 4 and 5 in all five elementary buildings who are learning to play the violin or viola. The grant allowed for the purchase of shoulder rests to give students the extra support they need to develop proper instrument hold from the start.  Up until this time, many parents could not afford to purchase shoulder rests.  This grant allows for every student to have the same opportunity to learn to play the violin or viola properly from the start.

Karen Portwood     Laurie Lofquist

Karen Portwood, Kindergarten teacher and Laurie Lofquist, Watson Food Warriors, HPS substitute teacher, Watson Elementary School, $750

This grant is designated for students K-5 at Watson Elementary School.  The goal is to create generational change by helping students actively participate in food preparation and the enjoyment of eating their own “tasty treats.”  Students are introduced to fresh fruits and vegetables, creative food preparation, and smart snack options.  Students are then sent home with a healthy snack after school. The hope is that students will develop an appreciation for healthy snacks and lifetime healthy eating.  This is one way to proactively address the health crisis in our nation.

Julie Simmons

Julie Simmons, The Pursuit of Socialization: Building Students Up with Games, Longfellow Elementary School, $1,000

The goal of this grant is to give students access to educational board games and building materials to improve their social skills.  The target group will be at-risk students from populations that include those in poverty, special education students, mobile students, English Language Learners and those with mental health concerns—all groups with individuals who struggle with social skills.  Julie will use demographic data, formative assessments and teacher referrals to determine small groups who will use the board games and building materials to assist them in developing and strengthening social skills and reinforce good character choices with all students at Longfellow.

Nancy Oerter      Lynn Zeleski

Nancy Oerter and Lynn Zeleski, 2017 Total Solar Eclipse, Hawthorne Elementary School, $1,000

This Staff Idea Grant was extraordinarily well planned in that it triggered a movement for all other HPS elementary schools to follow suit. The Foundation fully supported this grant which provided resources so that Hawthorne students could observe the eclipse with a full understanding of how an eclipse occurs and why the 2017 eclipse was unique in the Hastings area.  Eclipses have inspired poets, musicians, authors and space explorers along with technological advancements.  This program integrated eclipse information and exploration into all subjects and grade levels.  This particular program inspired the Foundation to establish a booth during the solar eclipse weekend at Brickyard part where volunteers continued to use games and projects to further educate children who came to the booth.



Tom Michalek
Morton Elementary
Building Community Spirit Through Singing – with the Amidons $1,000
Adam Skrdla
Hastings Senior High School
Aerial Engineering $505
Kenda Chamberlain and Adeline Johnson
Longfellow Elementary
Master of Mathematics and Voracious Readers $1,998
Miranda Nanfito
Longfellow Elementary School
Cromebooks in the Classroom $1,000
Amber Schultz and Nate Story
Longfellow Elementary
Exercise and Behavior Self-Management
Giving Kids the Tools to Calm Themselves $1,000
Brenda Quinones
Longfellow Elementary
Smart ALEKS for Math $450
Cheryl Schuff
Abraham Lincoln Elementary
More to Math Core Set 1-2 $829.95
Melissa Burke
Hawthorne Elementary
Motivating Reluctant Readers by Pairing Books with Unabridged Audio Books $1,000
Becky Katzberg and Christa Ball
Alcott Elementary
Board Game Club $700
Cathy Callan and Kara Adams
Alcott Elementary (All center-based preschool classrooms located at Alcott, Head Start, 
Longfellow, Morton Watson Elementary Schools
Preschool Students Experience the Children's Museum of Central Nebraska $924
Robin Stroot
Hawthorne Elementary
4-H Beyond the Farm $500



Jalaene Choquette, Scott Engberg, Patt McConnaughhay, and Pat Vogel
Hastings Senior High
Navigating Through Your Future with Naviance, $2,000
Naviance integrates success planning, career planning, college planning, and family engagement tools to give every student an individual success plan.
Jodi Kauffman and Erica Jenkins
Alcott Elementary
Brain Games:  A Winning Strategy for Cognitive and Social Development, $940
Teaching cognitive and social skills through board games.
Becki Kulwicki, Dana Odom, and Mary Mohlman 
Lincoln Elementary

The Baking Bunch, $830
Cooking Class
Dr. Susan Lindblad and Tracia Ferguson
Lincoln and Longfellow Elementary Schools
Midwest Symposium for Leadership in Behavior Disorders, $900
Connie Murray
Alcott, Longfellow, and Morton Elementary Schools
Traveling Bags, $1,000
Amber Schultz and Minta Gregory
Longfellow Elementary and Hawthorne Elementary
Books for Behavior, $1,000
Cathy Callan 
Hawthorne Elementary
Preschool Rocker Chairs, $620
Lauren Trimble and Staci Stunkel 
Longfellow Elementary, Alcott Elementary, and Hastings Middle School
NAEA National Convention, $2,000

Faye Friesen 
Hastings High School
Flipped Classroom Package, $730
Expanding learning into the home.


Kathy Carlin and Kylee Greisen
Hawthorne Elementary & Hastings Middle School
Attend the Music Teachers Convention National Association National Convention ($2,000)

Kim Creech and Jill Choyeski
Lincoln, Alcott, Longfellow, Morton, and Hawthorne Elementary Schools
Camp Invention Tuition ($1,000)

Jan Herbek
Morton Elementary
Reshaping Misconceptions: Earth, Moon, and Sun ($322)

Charleen Himmelberg
Morton Elementary
"HEAR" to Learn ($1,000)

Rebecca Hoobler
Longfellow Elementary
Enhancing Social/Character Skills in the Preschool Classroom ($359)

Jeff Janda and Kristen Janda
Hastings Middle School
Attend Annual Conference for Middle Level Education ($2,000)

Kelsey Keever 
Morton Elementary
Mini iPads for Mini Hands ($1,000)

Tom Michalek
Morton Elementary
D.R.U.M: Discipline, Respect and Unity through Music ($984)

Adam Skrdla
Hastings High School
Infinite Classroom ($540)

Robin Stroot
Hawthorne Elementary
Involve Me and I Will Learn ($300)

Leisa Zalman
Morton Elementary
Redcat Classroom Sound Amplification System ($950)



Kenda Chamberlin, Amanda Zeisler, and Monica Munter
Longfellow Elementary
Enhancing Literacy Instruction Through Technology ($1,000)

Carla Hedstrom
Hastings High School
Knitting with Madame DeFarge ($185)

Jodi Kauffman
Alcott Elementary
iLearn with iPad ($1,000)

Charleen Himmelberg and Robin Stroot
Hawthorne Elementary
Perseverance and Persistence! (Developing Students' Stamina to Reach Their Academic Goals--The Sew So Club) ($250)

Ronda Loetterle
Hawthorne Elementary
First Grade Classroom Ball Chairs ($675)

Jade Reeves
Morton Elementary
Interactive Classroom Through the Use of Mimio ($750)

Michele Kimle, Marj Little, Steph Jacobson, and Kylee Greisen
Hastings Middle School
Red Bull, Twitter, and Moving out of the Dinosaur Ages! ($350)

Denise Koch and Mindy Breckner
Lincoln Elementary
Conquering Poverty ($1,000)

Rick Matticks
Hastings High and Hastings Middle School Music Departments
The French Connection, Artists in Residence ($1,000)

Ann Mays and Greg Mays
Hastings High School
Facilitating Participation in State and Regional History Day ($300)

Mary Seiler
Hastings Middle School
Smart ALEKS: Technology Intervention for Struggling Math Students ($1,000)

Katie Shepard
Hastings High School
Authentic Engagement and Effective Learning Via Online Resources/Innovative Technology ($1,000)

Laura Zabloudil
Alcott Elementary
Exploring Nebraska History Through Literature ($772)

Karen Portwood and Julie Parker
Watson Elementary and Hawthorne Elementary
Fostering Literacy Independence and Increasing Academic Accountability ($610)




Jayson Stoddard, Deanna Dirks, Mike Trindle, and Beth Kohmetscher
Hastings Middle School
Hastings Middle School Garden: raised-bed ($973.44)

Kim Remmers
Hawthorne Elementary
Expanding Differentiated Instruction ($996.38)

Leslee Wischmeier
Watson Elementary
Now "NATS" What I Call Science ($542)

Erika Jenkins
Alcott Elementary
iPads=I Can, I Will, Because My Education Matters! ($1,000)

Amy Swayze and Pam Davis
HPS Community Liaisons
Project Dress Up ($1,000+)

Jan Herbek
Morton Elementary
Classroom Amplification System ($716)

Lynne Kaiser and Jim Kaiser
Instrumental Music, Alcott Elementary School as a Pilot Program
Rotating Violin Lab ($945)

Ann Mays and Greg Mays
Hastings High School
National History Day: Opening the Experience to All Students ($300)

Faye Friesen and Kim Vogt
Media Specialists, Hastings High School and Hastings Middle School
Media Specialists as Educational Technology Teachers

Karen Harvey-Holmes
Morton Elementary
Morton Elementary Career Fair ($1,000)




Nancy Oerter
Hawthorne Elementary
iTouch Up My Learning ($1,000)

Lauren Henry
Morton Elementary
Differentiation of the Working With Words Block With Use of the Leapster Learning Center ($955)

Cathy Davis and Nikki Gengenbach
Hastings High School
E-readers for Non-Readers ($1,000)