CSISD Grant Patrol awards annual learning grants to district teachers, staff

Magarita Tran and Leah Stroud, fourth grade teachers at Southwood Valley Elementary, applied for a grant from the College Station ISD Education Foundation Grant Patrol a few years ago in the hopes of receiving money for a student-led morning announcements news studio.

While they didn’t receive the individual items for the production at the time, on Wednesday they received a new production space and are eager to fill it with new equipment.

“We’re really excited to get new equipment and new things for the students to be able to run everything themselves,” Stroud said after the Grant Patrol presented its 17th annual grants Wednesday.

Alison DeLuna, principal of Southwood Valley, said the morning announcements mean a lot to the students and their parents because the broadcasts are livestreamed.

“Our staff is always trying to be the best that they can be and do the best that they can for the kids, and so the fact that we have an education foundation that supports that desire means the world to us and to our kids here because they get experiences they might not get at home or might not otherwise get,” DeLuna said.

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With the support of the A&M Consolidated and College Station high school cheerleaders, drumlines and mascots, the CSISD Education Foundation, school board and community members made their way down the hallways of all 19 campuses to surprise teachers with innovative learning grants.

The Education Foundation raises funds every year that turn into grants for teachers and staff. This year, the foundation awarded 64 grants for a total of $302,088 and passed the $2 million mark in grant donations since 1999.

“It’s kind of humble to be honest with you because we can’t do this without support from our donors, from our community, so we’re very proud, and we’re very excited to be able to say that we’ve done $2 million in innovative teaching grants,” said Teresa Benden, executive director of the CSISD Education Foundation.

Benden said grant day is the best day of her job for many reasons, but seeing the astonished look on teachers’ faces is tops.

“I think my favorite part is to see the teachers’ faces when they’re surprised and for them to know that we care about them, and we want to support them, and we want to bring things into their classrooms that’s going to make teaching and learning fun and exciting,” Benden said, “And we’re just so glad to be able to partner with our community to be able to do that as well.”

While the grants will fund a variety of projects, Staci Cocanougher, president of the Education Foundation’s executive committee, said one of the themes was technology, as many grants were awarded to teachers looking to introduce various technological advancements into their classrooms.

“This just puts the tools and technology in their hands to just brighten the kids’ days and advance their education because we know our students are our future and so their needs are very different now, and our teachers are recognizing that, and they’re writing grants for it,” Cocanougher said.

A&M Consolidated received 10 grants for a total of $38,922. CTE Teachers Trey Bevans and Michael Howard were awarded the “Students Helping Students; Build a Computer Lab” grant. This will fund their students’ upcoming project of building computers that will be donated to a district middle school.

“Our students will build those, and then Mr. Howard’s students are going to load software on it and make sure everything is kosher, and then we’re going to send it to the middle school, and the middle school students will be able to use it,” Bevans said.

Bevans also was awarded with the “Fly to Learn — A Drones-for-Education Project” grant to purchase a class set of Tello drones.

“I’m going to utilize these for group projects and so the students will demonstrate project management, teamwork, safety and flying these in the hallway to then discover content that’s relevant to the class,” Bevans said.

Gwen Elder, Consol’s principal, was elated by the foundation’s gift to the school. For Elder, Grant Patrol is a demonstration of the value the community and its businesses place on education.

“It’s like icing on the cake, you know; you have the state funds that will provide you with the needs and so sometimes you want wants that, financially, you just don’t have in the budget and so anytime the Education Foundation can come, it just provides a little icing and toppings on the cake,” Elder said.

Superintendent Mike Martindale shared this sentiment, stating that it is rewarding to see teachers and students reacting to the Grant Patrol’s generosity.

“I think it’s just one more thing to show the support of our community for the school district, and that is something we don’t take lightly and we’re very appreciative of, and I think it’s a component of what makes our school district one of the best in the state,” Martindale said.

Jeff Horak, president of the school board, said Grant Patrol upheld its legacy of being a phenomenal event.

“To give back to the teachers and see how it benefits the students in our district at all 19 of our schools, it’s just tremendous,” he said.