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Funding sought for teaching grant

The grant would allow teachers to try something new in the classroom

By Kim Walter

WOODSTOCK - Provided that a funding source becomes available, the Shenandoah County School Board has decided to move forward with the Instructional Challenge and Innovation Grant.

During its retreat in July, the board discussed a draft of an implementation plan for the division's Comprehensive Plan. From that came the concept of the Instructional Challenge and Innovation Grant, which would be an action item supporting strategies four and five under "Goal 2: Teaching and Learning."

Goal 2 states, "The learning and growth of all students occurs in learning environments that include engaging, innovative, and rigorous curricula, enhanced by excellent pedagogy and positive student-teacher relationships."

The grant differs from others in that it is specifically focused on innovative, research-based pedagogy. Proposals would address ideas for teaching methods and instructional strategies that will elevate teaching and learning beyond the Standards of Learning, according to Evelyn Linaburg, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment.

"The thinking is that our own teachers may be best for improving instruction," she explained to the board Thursday night. "We know they have some amazing ideas that, if focused on, can be embedded into each and every classroom in the county."

Some examples of instructional challenge and innovation approaches include project-based learning, inquiry-based learning, blended/hybrid learning, flipped learning, various technology enhanced approaches to teaching and learning, and integrated studies.

If funded, grant recipients would share their ideas across the division in summer symposiums.

Linaburg stressed the "great potential" for positive long-term impact from the grants. She said the sharing of such innovations in teaching would highlight their importance and support teachers in their professional growth. It would also enrich the learning experiences of students, she said.

"Project-based learning is good for everyone," she said. "It could make for more balanced assessments."

Linaburg said she would like to present the grant description during the division's convocation on Aug. 23, especially since teachers and administrators have previously expressed the need for such a grant project.

The key, at this point, is finding a solid funding source.

With the board's approval Thursday night, division staff is now able to pursue options to obtain a funding stream. Possible sources include surplus funds from the Shenandoah Education Foundation and area civic groups, among others.

Once a funding stream is secured, the proposal will be presented to the board for its formal approval of the new grant process.

The current fund goal is $25,000. If achieved, the school system hopes to fund proposals of at least 20 teachers.

Linaburg said staff will also continue looking into ways to make the grant and its purpose more attractive to faculty so they will want to apply.

"I would love to get this started in time for the school year so teachers know that we support them taking some risks and trying something new in the classroom," she said. "With the way testing is these days, teachers feel like they are stuck sometimes. Hopefully this will start to change that."

Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or kwalter@nvdaily.com

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