Staff Idea Grant Program


Every school in the Hastings Public Schools District is utilizing Staff Idea Grant money this year with generous donors to the Hastings Public Schools Foundation providing $13,500 for 14 different projects.


2019-20 Staff Idea Grant Recipients

Augusta BeahmAugusta Beahm: High School -National Science Conference for two teachers






McKenzie Bertrand Emmy ReimerMcKenzie Bertrand & Emmy Reimer: Lincoln Elementary – Wireless interactive whiteboard systems and document cameras





Jenni Engel

 Jennifer Engel: Watson Elementary – Qball: throwable wireless microphone ball






Nikki Gengenbach Nikki Gengenbach: High School – Swivel rockers and books






Lauren Henry Lauren Henry: Middle School – Health & fitness after-school club






 Jenna Jorgensen: Middle School – Multisensory environment






 Kelsey Keever: Watson Elementary – Cooking Up Better Behavior






Barbara LandellBarbara Landell: Alcott Elementary – Redcat classroom audio system

*Connie Hallloran Memorial Grant Recipient





Rick Matticks Rick Matticks: All Elementary Schools – Technology to create music videos






 David Bernard-StevensChristine Niemeyer & David Bernard-Stevens:  All Elementary Schools – Five violas 





Amy SloanAmy Sloan: Hawthorne Elementary – Qball: throwable wireless microphone ball and 23 fluency headphones






Rita Will Rita Will: Lincoln Elementary - Outdoor classroom tables






Tammy Wilhelms Tammy Wilhelms: Alcott Elementary – Wireless headphones






Derek WilliamsDerek Williams: Hawthorne Elementary – Gym Projector







Jimmie Combs – Pedometers – Hastings Middle School - $1000

Pedometers are quickly becoming a common and valuable tool for physical educators. Pedometers offer a valid, reliable, and feasible method to assess children’s step counts. The Pedometers also provide teachers and students with immediate, concrete feedback on students’ physical activity levels. This request will impact over 800 students per year at the Hastings Middle School and will involve cross-curricular connections to math and technology, in particular. Students will use math to analyze their daily average number of steps, their range, and their highs and lows. The information will be placed in students’ computer applications so that they can graph that information and analyze their progress and areas of growth. Students will be asked to set goals and attempt to achieve them, in effect establishing intrinsic motivations to competing against themselves. Teachers, on the other hand, can use the student data to provide instant analysis and immediate feedback to encourage student success.

Angela Consbruck – Emergency Response Kits – All HPS School Buildings - $2000  

This is really a two-grant project:  $1,000 is being used to purchase Emergency Response Kits for all elementary school, and $1,000 is being used to purchase Emergency Response Kits for Hastings Middle School and Hastings High School.  These kits are stocked with supplies that could be used by building first responders and nurses to prevent loss of life in the event of an unforeseen emergency.  Equipment and supplies have a shelf life of five to ten years and are only to be used for school emergency or mass casualty events.  All HPS Student Health nurses are Registered Nurses and hold current licensure; in addition, first responders on staff gave been identified and trained.  These Emergency Response Kits are the first attempt to have supplies available in the event of a mass casualty emergency.

Stephanie Jacobson, Michele Kimle, Jill Hoppe – Coping Corner – Hastings Middle School -  $800  

The objective of this project is to create a space in the HMS counseling office containing safe and healthy coping strategies for students who are upset or angry.  Students have several options to learn to manage anger, sadness and frustration in healthy ways.  The goal is to help students return to their classroom and go about their day, even if they have become upset at some point.

Rebecca Jensen  - Technology for Learning – Longfellow Elementary School- $870  

This grant allows for the purchase of 5 Chromebooks.  The working components of this project include providing constant availability of technology to 4th grade students, integrating the use of technology to show evidence of learning of and about the importance of digital citizenship, the 4th grade standards of which include using norms of appropriate and responsible technology use; practicing safe and ethical behaviors when communicating digitally; and using appropriate tools to convey information, gather opinions, and solve problems.  Most students coming into the 4th grade use technology mostly for gaming, entertainment, and social media.  This project proposes to prepare students to use technology to learn, collaborate and create in ways advantageous to higher education levels and career readiness.   

Adeline Johnson, Janelle Forsman and Stephanie Hoyt – Sensible Seating for Sensory Students  - Longfellow - $1344  

This project will provide sensible seating, weighted lap pads, and fidget tools for the students in the special education rooms and a second grade classroom for the purpose of improving the quality and longevity of engagement in their learning.  These materials and tools help students to reduce their anxiety and maintain focus.  Both the lap pads and the plush animals contain plastic weighted beads.  Adjustable straps are sown to the plush animals to help then stay on the students’ laps.  These weighted objects help students increase their levels of engagement (to meet the District goal of having all students engaged 90% of the time).  Research  suggests that young children learn more when their bodies are moving.  This is especially true for attention-deficit/hyperactive (ADHD) children and those with sensory needs, who fidget more when a task requires them to store and process information rather than just hold it.  In addition, students who must balance on their chairs increase their core muscles, which helps with body alignment.

Ronda Loetterle - Chromebooks for EL Classroom – Hawthorne Elementary School - $872

Ronda will purchase four Chromebooks for her English as a Second Language (EL) classroom to allow her students to “gain technology skills and maximize their English language learning.”  Students will use the Chromebooks for language arts, math, keyboarding, social studies and science websites.  Ronda is certain that this technology “has the power to make a difference in EL students’ educational futures. . . “These laptops enable students to learn at their own pace and have in the past provided students with all they need to be “successful academically and an affordable price.”  Students will work on their own individualized academic goals to gain proficiency (differentiation).

Cindy Long and Becki Kulwicki - Can You Hear Me Now? – Abraham Lincoln Elementary School- $757.80  

This grant will impact all Kindergarten students at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School.  The project will involve the purchase of hearing amplification systems for three Kindergarten classrooms.  Amplification systems enhance teachers’ voices and students learn more efficiently.  When students can hear clearly, they can learn to grow essential listening skills.  They are more likely to participate in classroom discussion, improve their behaviors, think critically about a topic, and improve comprehension.  These teachers made the effort to research possible models and brands of amplification systems and have chosen a less expensive but effective brand called Chattervox with which they are very pleased.

Chelsey Mangers - Dream It, Plan It, Make It! – Longfellow Elementary School - $600  

Chelsey has the goal of creating a classroom Makerspace.  A Makerspace is a space set aside in a classroom for students to dream, explore, create and share their creations.  Makerspace users use both recycled materials and new materials to create objects of interest that involve innovation and the building of critical thinking skills.  Chelsey wants her students to have “endless possibilities to use their higher order problem-solving skills through hands-on designing and construction.”  Students of all abilities can and will use the Makerspace which allows for differentiation, which comes about when students who learn differently can  employ various multiple intelligences. The project also offers the possibility of student collaboration both when students need help with ideas and for larger and more elaborate projects.  Chelsey engages student in the Genius Hour every week and plans to make the Makerspace a part of this special time.  Students will have the opportunity to research topics of interest and have the supplies to create finals project showing their understanding of this research.

Rick Matticks - Blues Brothers and Friends Jazz Artist in Residence – All HPS Students, Grades 5-12 - $1000  

Rick Matticks, HPS Music Coordinator, is for the third time providing an Artist-In-Residence (AIR) program that will impact the entire HPS student body through music in April of 2018.  Again, this will be a multicultural experience, employing jazz for students through Tom Malone, Lou Marini, Kirk Garrison, Joey Gulizia and Tony Gulizia.  Tom “Bones” Malone and “Blue” Lou Marini are original members of the famous “Blues Brothers Band,” fronted by Dan Akroyd and Jon Belushi.  Tom and Lou have performed jazz music throughout the world.  The two-day Artist-In-Residence program would involve band, orchestra, vocal, music theory and possibly drama students and would include an assembly at either Hastings High School or Hastings Middle School, with students performing alongside the guest artists.  In addition, the project includes a community concert involving select HPS students and Hastings College students performing with the artists in residence group.  Collaboration with the Hastings College Music Department and the Grand Island and Kearney Public Schools will be an important aspect of the project and will help limit the cost.  Curriculum goals include creating, performing, responding and connecting.  The HPS Foundation is pleased to provide a Staff Idea Grant as part of start-up costs.

Courtney McCarty, Hastings High School, and Tina Pfeil, Hastings Middle School – National Council of Teacher of Mathematics National Conference – HHS and HMS - $2000  

The present emphasis on math in the Hastings Public Schools has prompted Courtney and Tina to seek funding to defray cost of attending a national conference focusing on math.  The Foundation encourages teachers to attend these conventions to exchange ideas, engage in innovation, and discover new learning practices to drive student success (MCTM website information).  Courtney and Tina hope to challenge and inspire their own student and, through District sharing, also inspire other Hastings Middle School and Hastings High School teachers to do the same through presentations and sharing within the HPS Professional Learning Communities.

Tom Michalek - How Sweet the Sound:  Appalachian Dulcimers – Watson Elementary School - $576 

This grant will impact the entire student body at Watson Elementary School, approximately 400 students per year.  Funds will be used to purchase a classroom set of fifteen Appalachian fretted dulcimers which are similar to, but yet simpler than a guitar or ukulele.  Appalachian lap dulcimers are American folk instruments that have been used since the 1800’s.  Today they are considered a “best practice” for engaging children of all ages.  The use of these instruments will help students reach several HPS/Nebraska Elementary Music Standards.  The dulcimers provide quick musical success.  Players find these instruments interesting, motivating, versatile, accessible and fun. Students will improve rhythmic and melodic reading skills, singing skills, eye-hand coordination, and musicianship.  A plus is that dulcimers will provide differentiation:  some students will play using strums, others can be further challenged by playing chords or a countermelody, and still others can learn a “fingerpicking” pattern, where individual strings are played.

Christine Niemeyer and Joel Jank - Take 6 – Hawthorne and Longfellow Elementary Schools - $1,000 each for a total of $2,000  

The HPS Foundation in coordination with Lynn Kaiser, has been involved in the past seven years in helping to establish orchestra labs designed to provide lab instruments (violins and/or violas) which stay at the specific elementary school building to which they are assigned so that multiple students can utilize them throughout the day if they are unable to rent instruments of their own.  With this newly funded grant, all five HPS elementary schools will have orchestra labs.  This has become a vital part of the elementary strings program with the purpose of insuring that no child is denied the opportunity to learn to play an instrument if he or she desires to participate in orchestra.

Teri Olson, Kayla Frerichs, Christyne Schultz and Jennifer Pughes – Move to succeed: Integrating Sensory Tools to Increase Student Success During Small Group Reading Interventions– Hawthorne Elementary School - $950  

This project will impact approximately 150 to 200 students.  The sensory tools have been proven successful with students who, because of distractions, need extra help to focus.  The sensory tools include special types of seating that allow for student movement while seated.  Tools include round wiggle seats and bouncy bands to allow for movement; weighted lap pads for tactile defensiveness, proprioceptive input, and deep pressure for calming the nervous system; and a sound sponge quiet divider to reduce noise and distractions.  The overall purpose will be to provide supplemental reading interventions for student performing below proficiency in reading.  Decoding skills, fluency and comprehension will be emphasized through intense direct instruction.  Additional goals include helping student achieve self-regulation and decreased disruptive and distracting behavior.  Students, when engaged in their learning, not only raise their achievement, but also their self-worth and self-esteem.

Brenda Quinones - Making Future Thinkers – Longfellow Elementary School - $1000  

This grant will be used to create a makerspace that focuses on STEAM education projects that are integrated within the District curriculum, with the goal of encouraging students (1) to be more excited to explore and learn through non-traditional methods; (2) to provide a space that is student centered and student driven as they explore in safe and constructive ways; and (3) to encourage differentiated learning opportunities as students work through their projects at their own pace and learning levels.

Michelle Rehbein - Literacy Based Math Books For Elementary Students – Watson Elementary School - $920.06  

Michelle Rehbein’s innovative grant entails the purchase of the entire “MathStart” series for all staff and students to utilize at Watson Elementary School.  These books will support the current math curriculum by adding more literacy to math instruction.  The project can be used by a wide variety of age groups in numerous settings, including after-school math clubs, teachers in classrooms, and parents who are working with student math skills.  Michelle will especially encourage parents to engage with their children using the MathStart series.   The books will be used for many years to come. 

Kim Remmers – Clearly Speaking – Hawthorne Elementary School - $765.06  

Through this project, Kim intends to “give students another avenue to use 21st century technology to improve their projects as well as provide clarity.”  Kim employs Google’s “Talk to Text” for students who are writing; students need to talk loudly to be heard by their computers, which disrupts others who are writing and working on other projects.  “As a class, we make movies, conduct fluency reads, and describe our math thinking using iPads” and it is “hard to hear what students are saying because of background noise.”  Kim intends to purchase and utilize headsets with sturdy microphones to give students in her class more flexibility to work with available iPads.  The goal is to help students spend their time more productively.   Kim, who has an advanced degree specializing in differentiation, sees this improvement as just one more way to provide for students with varying talents and abilities. 

Tamisha Rose Osgood – EZ Scan-Taking Mile Club and Fitness Success to the Next Level – Lincoln - $149.95  

The Lincoln Elementary School Mile Club was started 9 years ago.  It is designed to encourage 1st through 5th grade students to run or walk 30 minutes a day in a program that takes place for 6 weeks in the fall and 2 weeks in the spring.  Formerly students collected sticks to keep track of their laps and were rewarded for every 5 miles completed.  Because the program is growing, the purchase of an EZ Scan through a Staff Idea Grant allows all students the opportunity to participate and set weekly, monthly or even quarterly goals with immediate feedback.  The immediate feedback encourages students to be more motivated and challenged.  The EX Scan records their goals and tracks their laps.  This is more efficient and useful than using sticks!

Alex Steele – Alcott Physical Education Gym Projector and Screen – Alcott Elementary School - $950  

This project will be unique to the Hastings Public Schools gyms and will impact all students at Alcott, K through 5th grade.  Two projectors will be installed, one on the ceiling and one on a wall of the Alcott gym.  The goal is to provide every possible method of learning for students to be more successful in physical education classes.  Both visual and auditory resources will be available to teach a variety of skills necessary to perform specific sports and to maintain a healthy lifestyle.  Students will “gain a better understanding of the skill being taught, be more willing and able to explain the differences between correct and incorrect techniques, and learn more unique and applicable fitness skills/techniques.  P.E. students can visually celebrate success, whether completing an activity, winning a game, or achieving a personal best score on a fitness test.  With a projector, each child’s progress can be shown every day.




Andrew Adams:                                         

Elementary Chess Clubs, All five elementary buildings, $1,000

Jade Bartunek:                                        

Flex Seating for Wiggly Kinders, Watson Elementary School, $586.06

Bertrand McKenzie:                                

Operation Flexible Seating, Abraham Lincoln Elementary School, $840

Charla Brant:                                           

Growing the Mathematical Mindset, Longfellow Elementary School, $650

Rick Matticks:                                          

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

Christine Niemeyer:                                

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

Karen Portwood and Laurie Lofquist:   

Watson Food Warriors, HPS substitute teacher, Watson Elementary School, $750

Julie Simmons and Adeline Johnson:  

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

Nancy Oerter and Lynn Zeleski:            

2017 Total Solar Eclipse, Hawthorne Elementary School, $1,000



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)