By Kim Walter
WINCHESTER -- H.N. Funkhouser & Company provided each of Frederick County's 18 schools as well as Dowell J. Howard Center and Senseny Road School with grants totaling $10,000 Tuesday morning.
Thanks to support from the company, the grants are awarded annually by the ExxonMobil Educational Alliance. In the first year that H.N. Funkhouser & Company secured grants for Frederick County Public Schools, nine of the schools received received grants of $500 each. Now, 12 years later, the number of schools benefiting has increased.
The company has awarded more than $100,000 through grants since the 2001-2002 school year. The grants are to be used for math and science programs.
On Tuesday morning, two representatives of the company -- Ken Rice, executive vice president and chief operating officer, and Bob Claytor, president -- presented the funds to principals from across the school district.
Claytor said he feels a particular tie to Frederick County schools, and mentioned that his 50th anniversary of graduating from James Wood HIgh School is approaching.
"The school system holds a special place in my heart," he said. "Through the partnership with Exxon, we've been able to give back to the community of educators that has given so much to me."
Rice said actually getting the grants is a competitive process, and comes on a "first-come, first-serve basis."
He also addressed the importance of supporting local education.
"Everyone is consumers of your product," he said to the school administrators.
With the recently intensified math SOL testing in Virginia, local teachers know more than ever that added resources to achieve student success in the STEM subjects -- science, technology, engineering and mathematics -- are vital.
Kathy Weiss, principal at Gainesboro Elementary School, shared how her school has been able to use previously awarded funds.
"We chose to particularly focus on math at our school," she said. "It's all about requiring our children to think more deeply while engaging students in complex math tasks."
Last year, the school used its $500 to purchase two DVDs and companion books for all K-5 teachers. The school also has put together a number of team meetings that allow teachers to share not only their teaching experiences but also how the students react to new ways of thinking and learning.
Additionally, calculators were purchased for all fifth graders at the elementary school.
Since receiving the grants, Weiss said teachers have noticed an improvement in their students' use of math vocabulary -- both oral and written.
"They're also just having more fun learning math," she said.
With this year's grant, Weiss plans to continue looking at more teacher resources and get more books related to teaching math for K-2 teachers.
At the high school level, students also will benefit.
John Nelson, Sherando High School's principal, said in the past grant funds have led to the purchase of equipment that gives students hands-on learning that has proven to lead to success.
"We've tried to work in the science and math, so we've gotten tools for physics, and resources that have allowed kids to do way more experiments in class," he said. "They don't just have to read about how these subjects integrate into every day life."
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org