Teachers win foundation awards for new projects, supplies


Merrillville Education Foundation (MEF) recently announced it will award eight grants totaling $7,292.36 to teachers in the Merrillville Community School Corporation to enhance the learning experiences for students.  Kinesthetic and visual learning activities, fine arts orchestra and theater programs, and STEM kits are just a few of the winning grant ideas in the foundation’s 38th round of awards.           

“The grant committee is very pleased to award this fall’s round of grants to very deserving winners,” said MEF Executive Director Mary Hoffman. “We are happy to support these educators. Their projects will inspire students to be successful in the classroom and beyond.”   foundation


John Wood Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher Stacie Anderson will receive funding for her project “Kinesthetics Phonics for Kindergarten.” Ms. Anderson said it would be an extension of what they already do using Jolly Phonics.

“We are looking to bring a supplemental phonics program to our students that will not only help them remember their letter names and sounds, but is also practical and makes sense,” she said.

 Ms. Anderson said the “Nellie Edge ABC Phonics: Sing, Sign, and Read” program is a multisensory ABC and phonics immersion program. 

“Our students would not only be learning letter names and sounds, but sign language as well, and this is something that can go with them into adulthood,” Ms. Anderson said.

Amber Welsh, Wood Elementary School first grade teacher, will receive funding for her program “SEL Literacy.” She will use the “Ninja Hacks” book sets along with PATHS to help develop first grade students' SEL (social and emotional learning) tools and strategies.

“These tools will help students regulate themselves and problem solve with their peers,” Ms. Welsh said.


Pierce Middle School Orchestra Director Bethany Borgo won MEF funding for her cello replacement project.

“The purpose of this project is to acquire string instruments for student use in the MCSC Orchestra Program,” Ms. Borgo said. “This project would provide school-owned instruments to promising string students whose lack of resources would otherwise prevent their participation in our program. Having these new cellos would enrich the orchestra program, enhance at-risk student learning in core subjects, and would create a resource to be used for years to come.” 


The Merrillville Education Foundation also promised funding to Merrillville High School Math Teacher Eric Curosh for his project “Learning Mathematics Visually.”

Mr. Curosh said the desire of his project is to provide students for years to come with graphing calculators to use while in class.

“Very few students enrolled in ‘Pre-Calculus A: Algebra’ own a graphing calculator,” he said. “With this grant, most students in our precalculus classes will be given the opportunity to use these calculators with money not being an issue.” 

MEF will also invest in the MHS Performing Arts programs, thanks to an application submitted by MHS Performing Arts Department Chairperson and Choral Director Melinda Reinhart.

“Although our lives are starting to get back to a new normal with pandemic protocols, our arts programs are truly struggling to get audiences back in the seats,” Mrs. Reinhart said. “Audiences (box office sales) are our sole means of recouping our production costs and funds are needed.”

She added that students learn so much more than lyrics to songs, lines of dialogue, and a few dance steps; they learn, cultivate, practice and hopefully master numerous life skills throughout our journey in rehearsals, not to mention the additional life-lessons as a result of performing during a global pandemic.


Iddings Elementary School Social Worker Nicole Dominguez won funding for her project “Treasure Chest Sensory Path.”

She will use the support for “Treasure Alphabet Hop” from The Sensory Path, a social-emotional tool to provide students sensory input that regulates their brains and bodies when they are overstimulated or emotionally unregulated.


Fieler Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher Michelle Frey will receive foundation support for her project “Kindergarten Alphabet Learning” that offers hands-on activities to develop fine motor skills, independent learning, writing, letter knowledge and listening skills.


Merrillville Intermediate School teachers Joy Kent, Angela Wells, Antonio Cervantes and Kimberly Choi teamed up and won funding for their project “STEM Kits - Creativity is the Power to Connect the Seemingly Unconnected.”

The group stated on their application, “STEM kits give curious students the skills to tackle problems confidently. The kits spark positive feelings about learning and promote greater self-confidence in students when faced with challenges.”

More information about these projects is available on the foundation website, merrillvilleeducationfoundation.org.

Since 2002, the Merrillville Education Foundation has awarded 451 grants to Merrillville teachers totaling $389,281.01.  These grants have impacted 123,262 student experiences in grades PK through 12.

The foundation is committed to being the primary private sector partner in supporting public education where public funds are not available in the Merrillville Community School Corporation.

Merrillville Education Foundation, Inc. is designated a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, and participates in a variety of ongoing fundraising events to generate monies for grants. All donations are tax deductible.

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