“The most important people in schools are teachers. The rest of us are support. Because of that first-hand knowledge and expertise, teachers are in the best position to identify new ways to engage students in learning.”
- Bob Edmiston, MPES Principal
In the nearly 40 years since the Classroom Grants initiative started, countless students and teachers have been positively impacted by hundreds of PCEF donor-funded programs!
That very first request came in 1986 from a PCHS teacher who wanted to send two of her students to a space camp at Stanford. With that grant, Park City Education Foundation was born, and PCEF donors have been funding educators' dreams of a better classroom experience for their students ever since.
Classroom Grants have become a classic; they’re a timeless, integral, and beloved PCEF building block. They provide funding for Park City educators to bring innovative ideas, concepts, or practices to life -- or expand past successful ideas in the classroom or school. Teachers - and administrators! - get to conceptualize and then try new things, unique learning activities, and innovative technology.
To ensure educators have enough runway to implement their vision, approved grants are worth up to $45,000! After an in-depth application process, Classroom Grants are evaluated by a committee; made up of educators, current and former students, PCEF staff, and key community stakeholders; in a participatory approval process. The team agrees on funding for programs with a focus on creativity and innovation, the whole child, and academic success.
Since that very first Classroom Grant, PCEF donors have funded more than 750 grants to classroom teachers (plus about 150 Express Grants!). That means: hundreds of thousands of dollars every year have been funneled DIRECTLY into the classroom.
Classroom Grants fund incredibly impactful programs like Latinos in Action (LIA), Makerspaces, Mindfulness and Wellness, Afterschool STEM & Science, Before School, and Tuition Assistance for PCSD Preschool this school year.
Some, like LIA, are longtime grant recipients: LIA has received funding for 12 years! Others, like the Before School Program at McPolin and Parley’s Park Elementary Schools, are pilots this year. All of them are programs that are in line with PCEF’s mission to inspire all Park City students to successfully reach their academic and lifelong potential.
Administrators request Classroom Grants as well, with an eye toward improving the educational experience for students across an entire grade, subject or school. Examples of those include the original funding for integral initiatives like the college counselors at PCHS, Naviance counseling software, all-day kindergarten, the elementary PACE teachers, or the Afterschool programs at Ecker Hill Middle School and Treasure Mountain Junior High.
“Around the late 2000s, [Technology Instructional Coach] Sam Thompson asked for a grant for a video-game-like program,” recalled Jennifer Billow, PCEF’s Associate Director of Communications and Development. “In his application, Sam explained it was to help teach math skills at individual levels. At the time, the committee was baffled by the idea but trusted the teacher. It was approved, and that specific grant is frequently credited as the one that led to PCSD eventually adopting its current 1:1 tech structure!”
It is thanks to Classroom Grants that many cutting-edge programs have been adopted by Park City School District to integrate across schools and curricula.
THE GIFT OF FAILURE
For good reason, the process to get new teaching strategies, techniques, and tools approved in a school district is a complex and rigorous task. From idea to implementation, the vetting and approval process is intense, both in an effort to soundly ensure educational benefits and to protect taxpayer money.
With Classroom Grants, teachers are given the support they need to try new ideas or expand successful ones they've seen in other classrooms or schools. In many cases, the PCEF seed funding helps ideas gain traction and thrive within schools. PCEF will often then help find other funding sources, so the effective initiatives can expand and reach more students.
And, as is so often the case in life, if a Classroom Grant is a so-called “failure,” it often provides tremendous growth and even better opportunities for learning. In one case, a Classroom Grant saved the district untold thousands of dollars…
“When the district was considering its 1:1 initiative (providing one piece of computer technology per student), iPads were the thing,” said Billow, “EVERYONE thought iPads were the tech students needed, so PCEF funded a test at the high school - and thank goodness! We learned that iPads were not a good fit for how students actually needed to use technology in their daily learning. It was relatively easy to abandon that PIECE of the initiative - and for the district to take the information to implement the current, very successful model of laptops for older students!”
PCEF Classroom Grants make our educator ideas a reality. And of course, the number one influence on student success (after parents) is their classroom teacher. Help us ensure that our teachers have the funding we need -- we invite you to donate to support this initiative!
Express Grants are also available to our educators and administrators - and also funnel funds right into the classroom. These quick-turn grants provide up to $1,000 for immediate teacher needs on a faster timeline. This allows PCEF to be much more nimble and flexible - at a much faster pace than school districts would be able to execute - in support of our educators and students.
Traditionally, about $10,000 is allocated to Express Grants each school year. In Spring of 2020, when COVID school closures hit, Express Grants were expanded. PCEF donors stepped up to contribute $45,000 to help teachers “build the plane while flying it” - and ensure our students had as much access to learning as possible.