SANDPOINT — Panhandle Alliance for Education gave out more than $109,000 to teachers and staff of the Lake Pend Oreille School District Thursday to support programs that enrich the lives of students in the district.
The 41 grants ranged from $293 to $9,980 for new and continuing programs in the 2017-2018 school year.
"All 41 (recipients) are incredible and the programs and grants represent such a wide range of inspirational and exciting things," said Geraldine Lewis, PAFE board president.
Perky Smith-Hagadone, principal of Northside Elementary School, was the $9,980 recipient to continue the experiential snow school, which is actually a district-wide program.
Smith-Hagadone was one of three educators who revealed their success stories to the crowd during the teacher grant awards night at the Heartwood Center. The snow school is a program for fifth-graders in the district. They get an in-school lesson with SOLE experts about the local watershed, followed by a day on Schweitzer where they learn about snowpack and how it affects the watershed. Because the kids learn about the watershed, it also serves as a prelude for the Pend Oreille Water Festival in the spring.
"Our snow school has been recognized as a national flagship snow school site, and there is only two of them out of 60, so we are pretty excited about that," Smith-Hagadone said.
Kelli Knowles, Kootenai Elementary principal, was another of the success stories with trauma-based support training. The school has seen an increase in students who are hungry, tired, scared or emotional, all of which are considered trauma, so she applied for and received a grant last year through PAFE.
"Kids can't compartmentalize as well as adults can — some adults can't compartmentalize — but we think about our lives when we walk into where we work and we are able to put everything aside that we came from and be present in the moment. Kids carry things with them all day long and, unfortunately, the negative seems to take over their ability to learn."
While she could recognize the symptoms, Knowles said she did not know how to give her teachers the tools to support traumatized children in the classroom. The training helps address those students' needs and creates an environment where students feel secure and emotionally supported. Knowles received another grant this year for $4,515.
John Hastings, science teacher at Sandpoint High School, had another success story and received a continuing grant for his monarch butterfly restoration project. So much is unknown, Hastings said, about the decline in population of the monarch here in the West, as well as the Midwest. In the West, about 75 percent have disappeared and 90 percent in the Midwest.
The grant will support the project as his students will get real-world science and research experience by introducing native milkweed to the SHS riparian area. Milkweed is the only plant monarchs use for reproduction. Students will also work with Idaho Fish and Game during the project.
"Even if it doesn't help the monarchs, there is probably going to be 100 other species that it will help in doing the process," Hastings said.
The PAFE mission is to promote excellence in education and broad-based community support for LPOSD. It is an independent organization formed to create and sustain an endowment to provide resources in support of effective teaching, learning and school management, which it has done for nearly 15 years.
"Since 2003, PAFE has put a total of almost $1.6 million straight into the classroom through these teacher grants," Lewis said.
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