Education Foundation awards a record-breaking 31 teacher grants to support curriculum and innovation

The Education Foundation of Downers Grove District 58 will award a record-breaking 31 grants totaling $22,705 to 46 teachers and staff this school year. Each grant supports highly innovative school projects that align with the District’s curriculum and strategic goals.

“The high quality of this school year’s grant applications was impressive. The Education Foundation is proud we will be able to help so many teachers turn their creative grant proposals into a reality,” said Education Foundation Grants Committee Chair Rep. David Olsen.

The Foundation annually awards grants to teachers and staff who have a good idea with a solid plan, but lack funding to implement it. Teachers submit their grant applications in September, and the Foundation’s Grants Committee completes a thorough and blind review of all grant proposals in early October. The Foundation selects projects that show strong potential to impact instruction using innovative tools and/or techniques. Project proposals must align with the District’s curriculum goals and have measurable outcomes, among other requirements.

Proceeds from the Education Foundation’s fundraisers—which include Oktoberfest, the spring concert, the Harlem Wizards game and the Green Apple program—cover the cost of the grants.

Congratulations to this year’s grant recipients!

2016-17 Education Foundation Grant Recipients: 

Middle school technology and STEM resources:

Thanks to the Education Foundation, many middle school students will enjoy new technologies, as well as dynamic science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) resources.

  • Jeff Berger, Herrick LRC teacher, received a grant for a Herrick LRC podcast studio.
  • Jill Henry, Jessica Atkins and Randie Johnson, Herrick science teachers, earned a grant for thermal energy cameras to help students understand abstract science concepts.
  • Janet Hecht, O’Neill music teacher, received a grant to create a portable recording studio to enhance music instruction.

3D printers:

The Education Foundation awarded 3D printers to four schools to inspire creativity, coding and engineering skills among students. 3D printers were awarded to:

  • Deanna Jacobs, Lianna Marino and Hayley O’Reilly, Kingsley teachers
  • Carin Novak, Lester principal
  • Kelly Coleman, Whittier LRC teacher
  • Liz Stroud, Fairmount LRC teacher

Elementary makerspaces and STEAM resources:

The Foundation approved several grants that promote science, technology, engineering, art and math, or better known as STEAM. These grants include makerspaces, innovation labs, engineering kits, Breakout EDU boxes and Osmos, an interactive tool that syncs with iPads to offer hands-on learning and play. These grants were presented to:

  • Barbara Potocki, Fairmount kindergarten teacher
  • Beth Hatlen and Kristy Hopkins, Indian Trail kindergarten teachers
  • Maria Ibarra Lorence, Kingsley K-1 biliteracy teacher
  • Irene Jackson, Lester LRC teacher
  • Diane Claver and Mary Loversky, El Sierra third grade teacher and LRC teacher
  • Joan Mommsen, Belle Aire/Indian Trail LRC teacher
  • Leslie Hesterman, Hillcrest LRC teacher
  • Lucy Elford, Pierce Downer LRC teacher
  • Meghan Beard, Lester third grade teacher
  • Hayley O’Reilly and Liz Stroud, Kingsley fourth grade teacher and Fairmount LRC teacher
  • Tricia Miller, Belle Aire sixth grade teacher

Classroom libraries:

The Education Foundation proudly encourages literacy and a love of reading among students. Classroom libraries provide students with direct access to popular books in their very own home classroom. Classroom library grants fund different types of books, including fiction, non-fiction, high-interest texts, and calming books and resources for young readers. Classroom library grants were awarded to the following:

  • Brittany Cerny, Hillcrest fifth grade teacher
  • Alison Swade, Herrick English-language arts (ELA) teacher
  • Genevieve Hahn, Herrick reading specialist
  • Nicole Ferroli and Kate Nickell, O’Neill ELA teachers
  • Matt Cunningham, Herrick ELA teacher
  • Deb Roach, Katelyn Morgan, Kayla Kinder and Alison Wagner, O’Neill resource and special education teachers
  • Bev West and Addie Kostellic, O’Neill ELA teachers
  • Alecia Probst, Grove Children’s Preschool teacher

Other grants: Writing, music, skills, community building

Finally, the Education Foundation funded several creative grants that support a variety of other important curriculum areas, including:

  • Megan DuPass, El Sierra reading specialist, received a grant for the Units of Study in Writing, a tool that helps students develop their opinion, information and narrative writing skills.
  • Julie Spring and Madelyn Fiene, O’Neill, Fairmount, Hillcrest and Indian Trail music/orchestra teachers, received an orchestra cello to enhance their students’ music opportunities.
  • Lauren Diamond, Anna Kupsco, Erik Andrews and Lauren Braverman, Hillcrest speech pathologist and resource/DLP teachers, earned a grant that will provide interactive and multi-sensory cooking experiences for students in the Developmental Learning Program, or DLP.
  • Shar Sombeck and Michelle Schmidt, Kingsley kindergarten teacher and occupational therapist, received a grant that provides activities to help develop kindergarteners’ fine motor, visual motor and academic skills.
  • Jason Lynde, El Sierra principal, received a grant that funds Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students), a program that promotes male role models in the school.

For more information about the Education Foundation, please visit

To learn more about the Foundation’s Teacher Grants Program and to view videos featuring the grants in action, please visit