Education Foundation awards 18 teacher grants to support learning

The Education Foundation of Downers Grove District 58 awarded 18 teacher grants that support innovative learning and instruction in District 58 and align to the District’s curriculum and strategic goals.

“The Education Foundation aims to enrich education for District 58 students, and our Teacher Grants Program is one way we can achieve this goal,” said Education Foundation Grants Committee Chair Karoline Kellam. “The Grants Committee was very impressed with the caliber of grant applications we received this year, and we are happy to fund 18 grants!”  

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 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!

2018-19 Education Foundation Grant Recipients:

Catherine Boyce, Pierce Downer first grade teacher, received a grant to incorporate hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) centers into her science time. These new resources will help motivate students to become critical thinkers and problem solvers.

Alison Brechtel and Matt Cunningham, Herrick English-language arts teachers, and Nicole Ferroli, Addie Kostellic and Kate Nickell, O’Neill English-language arts teachers, received grants that will enhance their classroom libraries with new, engaging and popular books at a variety of reading levels to promote choice reading among students.

Maureen Bresnahan, El Sierra speech-language pathologist, received a grant to enhance student vocabulary and general concept knowledge through weekly language lessons within the classroom.

Caitlin Choinski, Henry Puffer and Highland social worker, received a grant to start a social-emotional learning preschool library with age-appropriate books that promote different social-emotional topics, such as coping skills, friendship and emotions.

Rose Cloud, band teacher at Highland, Hillcrest, Lester, Whittier and El Sierra schools, received a grant that revitalizes the District’s jazz instruction. Her project will create an improvisation curriculum and provide the beginning materials to support student learning and performance in jazz band and new jazz workshops.

Michele Crowley, Highland and Herrick English learner teacher, will provide English learners with bilingual texts to use at home, with the goal of increasing parental involvement, literacy scores and social-emotional growth among English learners.

Karina DeLeón and Cynthia Rodriguez, the District’s kindergarten-through-third grade biliteracy teachers, received a Number Sense grant that will provide students with visual supports, such as counting bears and dice, to help them improve their math skills and become flexible mathematical thinkers.

Christina Diaz, the District’s fourth and fifth grade biliteracy teacher, received bilingual and Spanish mentor texts to model and teach reading comprehension strategies and writing skills.

Melissa Eckdahl, Christina Gamboa, Hayley O’Reilly and Michelle Schmidt, Kingsley resource teachers, fourth grade teacher and occupational therapist, received a grant to install HOVRs on a few desks and tables. A HOVR is an under-desk foot swing designed to let students move while seated. Research has shown that the HOVR can enhance student focus, productivity and health.

Janet Hecht and Eareen Yambao, O’Neill and Herrick music teachers, will start the “I-kulele, Ukulele, We-kulele” program, which will provide music students with ukuleles to inspire fun, educational and life-long music learning.

Katie Hurckes, District interventionist, received a grant that will fund a Family Math Night at Kingsley and El Sierra schools this spring.

Mary Loversky, El Sierra librarian, and Angela Vahle, Highland librarian, each received a grant to purchase books that will support instructional units in the new Benchmark English-language arts curriculum resource.

Janette Richelia, Pierce Downer social worker, and Emma Grisamore and Grace Claussen, Pierce Downer kindergarten teachers, will use their grant to host a weekly social-emotional learning center time for kindergarteners, focusing on mindfulness, emotions, calming strategies, friendship, problem-solving and more.

Deborah Roach, O’Neill resource teacher, received a grant that provides high-interest, age-appropriate books for students who read below grade level. This will help students access books that interest them at their reading level.

Ericka Zagorski, Whittier sixth grade teacher, will use her grant to begin The Memory Project. This project invites students to help cultivate global kindness by creating portraits for children around the world who have faced substantial challenges, such as violence, war, extreme poverty, neglect and loss of parents.

A spotlight on the 2018-19 Education Foundation teacher grant recipients will be presented during the Board of Education meeting on Monday, Dec. 10 at 7 p.m. at Downers Grove Village Hall.

For more information about the Education Foundation, please visit