Attention Teachers: This One’s For You!

Lea Leet, a first grade teacher at Hickory Ridge Elementary school, grew frustrated when she couldn’t find a grant to meet her Etiquette Club needs.

After paying for club activities the first year, Leet, along with two other teachers, knew they could not bear the financial responsibilities again. Most of their club members come from low-income families, so outside help was needed to continue with the club, which focuses on teaching lessons relevant to young girls’ everyday lives.

“I received an email reminder from the Shelby County Schools about the Junior League of Memphis Innovative Teaching Grants,” Leet said. “I knew this was what I needed to apply for. So many grants are for specific subjects or have stipulations that don’t let you think outside of the box. But this grant did!”

Lit's display board for the newly installed Etiquette Club - a project she founded with funds received  for an Innovative Teaching Grant in 2013/2014.

Lea Leet’s display board showing off her accomplishments with the Etiquette Club.

The Junior League of Memphis’ Innovative Teaching Grants, now in its 12th year, is a program designed to improve the quality of life for children by encouraging and supporting excellence in teaching. Teachers apply for the grants that will enable them to implement original and creative learning experiences beyond the basic curriculum in school budgets.

Leet applied, and was awarded $1,000 for her “The Art of Being a Young Lady” proposal. Leet and her fellow teachers planned lessons around proper hygiene, voice control, phone manners and when to write thank you notes. Each club member was gifted a strand of imitation pearls and a manners book. The culminating activity was a Father-Daughter Dance on Valentine’s Day, that included a ballroom dancing instructor.

Rachael Thompson, a first grade teacher at the Campus School, received a grant for an in-depth, integrated art project.

“We used the funding to purchase Dr. Seuss books for four classrooms,” Thompson said. “We wanted to get some of Dr. Seuss’ more obscure works that the students hadn’t previously been exposed to.”

After reading the works, Thompson brought in an artist to teach the students to draw the Cat in the Hat. Select student works were chosen and displayed at Collerville’s Harrell Theater during the performance runtimes of Seussical.

Both Thompson and Leet acknowledge that the Innovative Teaching Grants are something that all teachers should apply for.

“I would definitely recommend ITG to all teachers!” Thompson said. “I think so many teachers have big, innovative projects in mind, but often get bogged down into finding the resources to make their instructional dreams become a reality.”

Kathryn Jasper, Junior League of Memphis Innovative Teaching Grant chair, agrees. According to Jasper, who also works in academia with the Hutchison School as the Hutchison Leads Director, the scope of the grant has gotten much larger in recent years.

“We broadened our reach two years ago, as the grants historically were designated for Memphis City Schools,” Jasper said. “With the merger and the current education reform climate, we expanded our eligibility to any PK-8th grade classroom in need in the greater Memphis area, which includes public, charter and private schools.”

The deadline for the 2014-2015 Junior League of Memphis Innovative Teaching is Tuesday, September 30. For more information, or to download the grant application, please visit http://www.jlmemphis.org/developingcommunity/2014innovativeteachinggrantsapplication. For questions, please email Kathryn Jasper, Junior League of Memphis Innovative Teaching Grant chair, at Kathryn.Jasper@gmail.com.

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