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Rotary awards teacher mini grants

By Terri House
Special to The SUN

Photo courtesy David Hamilton The Pagosa Springs Rotary Club presented Rotary Teacher Mini Grants to, from left, Tracy Schenk, Mary Kurt-Mason, Tiffany Candelaria, Deborah Morton, Tony Rackham, Gabby Pajak, J.D. Kurz, Heather Hemphill and Sally Capistrant. Clint Shaw was not available for the photo.

Photo courtesy David Hamilton
The Pagosa Springs Rotary Club presented Rotary Teacher Mini Grants to, from left, Tracy Schenk, Mary Kurt-Mason, Tiffany Candelaria, Deborah Morton, Tony Rackham, Gabby Pajak, J.D. Kurz, Heather Hemphill and Sally Capistrant. Clint Shaw was not available for the photo.

Pagosa Springs has dynamic teachers with great ideas, who are short on resources.

Each year, the Rotary Teacher Mini Grant Committee awards grants in the amount of $300 or less for worthy projects. The following projects were funded for this year.

Elementary school counselor Tracy Schenk will use her grant to purchase resources/activity books to help increase student self-esteem, decrease bullying, encourage positive choice making, develop friendship, deal with divorce, change families and provide interventions for various growth groups. These books will potentially reach all 540 students at Pagosa Springs Elementary School.

Tiffany Candelaria, seventh-grade life science teacher, will use funds to purchase a kit to allow students to investigate genetics, particularly blood typing. This lab activity is designed to challenge students to solve a crime by performing ABO and Rh typing on samples of simulated neo/blood.

Teacher and chairman of the high school science department Tony Rackham will use his grant to add a unit to his “Explorations in Science” project that will provide his students with the opportunity to explore both the potential, and drawbacks, of geothermal/steam power. This will involve purchase of steam engine kits that allow the students to construct engines, use them to create a series of energy conversions, and evaluate their efficiency and potential for future use in the wider world.

Unique to the mini grant applications this year is high school senior Gabby Pajak, whose goal is to initiate a recycling program at the high school by purchasing containers in order to provide easy access to increase recycling rates. Pajak is the first student who has applied for a Rotary mini grant with the support of teacher and National Honor Society sponsor Sabra Miller. Pajak will initiate a recycling program to encourage students to think of the environmental consequences of their consumption habits. This recycling program will provide National Honor Society with a year-round service activity.

Special Talents (severe needs) teacher Mary Kurt-Mason will purchase an iPod Touch for use by students who struggle with independent reading. These students are capable of listening to, and learning from, literature that is read aloud to them. With the iPod Touch, students will be able to listen to books at their own interest and comprehension levels. Passages or paragraphs could be repeated as necessary for understanding. Multiple books can be downloaded from free library sites onto the same device for use by different students.

Pagosa Springs High School librarian Deborah Morton will use her grant funds to purchase multiple copies of books for the book club. This is the sixth year the high school has had a book club. In that time, the books have been utilized by other professionals in the school district. Having books available that deal with a variety of topics is a powerful resource.

High school science teacher Heather Hemphill will put her funds to work to develop a more hands-on anatomy and physiology curriculum. Currently, there are no hands-on labs due to a lack of supplies. Rotary’s grant will be used to purchase a coroner’s report kit and a digestive enzymes kit along with an anatomy and physiology slide set. These resources will enrich students’ learning and provide more real-world experience that can be applied to coursework.

Art teacher Clint Shaw will purchase pottery glazes in large buckets in order to provide an opportunity for students to experience more projects and techniques than they would by simply hand-painting the glazes. It will also greatly increase productivity during the annual Empty Bowls charity event.

High school science teacher J.D. Kurz plans to outfit the science lab with digital thermometers with his grant funds. Digital thermometers can be used in over 20 chemistry and physical science labs. These digital thermometers work with existing data loggers and science lab computers and provide immediate graphical results of sensitive temperature changes that occur during reactions and experiments. With the purchase of 10 thermometers, each lab group will have access to a thermometer to collect their own data.

English department chair Sally Capistrant proposes to “Get the Wiggles Out” with her grant to purchase exercise balls as alternative seating for students. Studies link movement with higher achievement and focus in the classroom. There is a certain population of students who cannot function without being able to wiggle, including kids diagnosed with ADHD. For those kids, having latitude for physical movement could be the difference between success and failure in the classroom.

Pagosa Springs Rotary Club is proud to assist with the purchase of these resources to make a difference in educating our local youth.

This story was posted on April 4, 2013.