Members put foundation grants to use in meaningful ways
The Education Minnesota Foundation for Excellence in Teaching and Learning offers a wide variety of grants to union members for professional development and classroom-focused projects. Three members shared their stories of how they are using the funds to help meet students’ needs.
Ingrid Miera, ESL paraprofessional, Osseo
Ingrid Miera had begun a personal journey to work on her own anti-racist mindset, and wondered if other education support professionals in her district might also want to learn more about the topics she was studying.
Miera took a leap and applied for a professional development grant to create her own book study class in her local union.
The grant allowed her to purchase books and a light dinner at three meetings, held at the Osseo union office. Around 30 ESPs attended the class, facilitated by Education Minnesota staff member Allison LaBree.
“It’s a training that you don’t give to someone, you give it with someone,” said Miera, an English as a second language paraprofessional at Fair Oaks Elementary in Osseo.
The first sessions focused on two books, but it was clear to Miera from feedback that the attendees wanted more.
Miera applied for another grant to continue to class. The second section focused just on the book, “Ouch! That Stereotype Hurts.”
“ESPs sometime get PD and it’s a quick thing, but this was giving them a deeper dive,” said Miera.
The book includes scenarios, role plays and questions to reflect on. Miera used the grant funds to purchase journals for the attendees to use in their reflections.
“When you start, it can be scary and intimidating,” Miera said. “I wanted the ESPs to have time to connect with each other and connect the learning to their work.”
Miera had such a great response, she approached her principal to see if they could use a portion of their monthly ESP meeting to discuss this topic. The principal agreed.
She hopes to continue this in the next year, and is also reaching out to ESPs to see if other sites might also be interested.
Jennifer Pelletier, music therapist, Minnesota State Academy for the Blind
Jennifer Pelletier saw how much her students loved music, with one even planning on pursuing a music major in college. But they were leaving her school without any exposure to Braille music.
“Because most blind students learn music by rote, they don’t have a clear concept of notation or the fundamentals of music other than from an aural perspective,” she said. “At our school, we have shelves full of Braille music from past decades, but no students who can read any of it.”
Pelletier first applied for a classroom-focused grant to help her students explore accessibility to music fundamentals—and expand on literacy—through a Braille music curriculum.
“This allowed us to introduce students to Braille music during our summer school session,” she said.
Receiving the grand funds allowed Pelletier to purchase Braille music curriculum.
“We also purchased Tact-Tiles, which are Lego-like manipulatives with raised dots in the form of the Braille music code, and a Lime Lighter, which has an enlarged screen display and foot pedals to scroll through the music,” Pelletier said.
“For our students who want to go beyond learning by rote, these tools can open the door to creativity, independence, and shared music making.”
Pelletier applied for a second-year classroom-focused grant, which allowed her to focus on her low-vision learners.
“For them, the grant allowed us to invest in technology that enlarges music,” she said.
Last summer, the students wrote short compositions for each other.
“A pre- and post-test showed a 60 percent increase in their skills, and they seemed to have fun in the process,” Pelletier said. “It’s extremely challenging to describe Western musical concepts without something tactile and fully accessible—especially when sighted peers have access to reading, writing and interpreting music very quickly.”
“I don’t expect our students to be reading Bach scores any time soon, but I think it’s important for them to know what tools are available so they can make more informed decisions later in life.”
Pang Yang, ESL teacher, Osseo
“Everything that we do, we need funding for,” said Pang Yang, an English as a second language teacher at Park Center High School in Osseo.
That is why Yang applied for a classroom-focused grant to help her students explore their culture and share their stories.
“We started a Hmong native speakers program” said Yang. “I found a publisher that was trying to get more Hmong authors to write and publish stories about Hmong people and their experiences. He inspired me to work with my students to think about publishing a book ourselves.”
Writing and publishing books are now embedded into the Hmong for Native Speakers class.
With the grant funds, Yang was able to bring in a Hmong hip-hop artist to talk with her students about writing poetry. He spent a week with Yang’s 200 students, helped them write and then selected 40 poems, which were then published in “Hmong Youth Poetry Collections: From Mountains to 10,000 Lakes.”
The grant also allowed Yang to purchase a copy of the book for each student author.
In total, Yang and her students have published three books. The other two titles are “Dear My Teacher: Letters of Joy, Pain and Triumph From Today’s Teenage Hmong Students” and “The Cultural Dish: Behind Every Dish is a Story.”
“The students love it,” Yang said. “There are some students who are great writers and have their pieces in all three books. Some have it in just one.”
Yang also brings student artists into the process, with artwork for each poem and the cover.
“With each book we try to make sure students are a part of the whole book—the title, the design, everything from the beginning to the end of the creation of the book,” she said.
Students also have hosted book readings at local libraries.
“It’s their time to tell their story,” Yang said. “They have so much to share and so much to tell.”
To learn more about the books published by Yang and her students, go to herpublisher.com.
2019-20 Foundation Grants
For details about the grants and how to apply, go to www.edmnfoundation.org.
Bruce Vento Science Educator Grant
For educators who teach science as part of their day and want to acquire and share new skills and knowledge; this grant may also fund equipment or materials needed in science classrooms. Awarded twice a year.
Deadlines: Nov. 1 and April 3
Professional Development Grants for teachers, ESPs and higher education faculty
Awarded twice a year, ESPs and teachers may request up to $1,500, and higher education faculty may request up to $3,000.
Educators may also submit a Professional Development Grant application for a group of members to either attend professional development or be trained at their worksite.
Deadlines: Nov. 1 and April 3
National Board Certified Teachers Scholarship
Members can receive $500 per component, up to $1,000 total.
Deadline: Nov. 1
Applicants may request up to $3,000.
Deadline: Dec. 6
Second-Year Classroom Grants
Applicants may request up to $3,000.
Deadline: April 3
IMPACT Grant projects must be coordinated by an active member of Education Minnesota who has teamed up with a nonprofit organization or their local union/school district. Approximately $15,000 is available for one year. The budget should reflect a one-year project.
Deadline: Jan. 10
Osseo ESP Ingrid Miera used a professional development grant to hold a book study and reflections on bias and stereotypes with members of her local.
Jennifer Pelletier’s students read Braille music using manipulatives, which she purchased using a grant from the foundation.
Some of Pang Yang’s students held a book reading at the East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul. Yang and her Hmong for Native Speakers classes have published three books, using grants from the Education Minnesota foundation.