Americans Helping Teachers 2023-2024 Grant Recipients

September 11, 2023

Americans Helping Teachers 2023-2024 Grant Recipients

September 11, 2023

 

Americans Helping Americans® Americans Helping Teachers program was developed with the goal of providing teachers and other educators to help their students and overall school communities with grant funding to meet unaddressed, and unfunded classroom needs.

This year, the program is providing two teachers with $4,000 grants each to enhance the educational experience for the students attending the schools where they teach.

In Tionesta, Pennsylvania, Lisa Banner is a teacher in the Forest Area School District with just two PK-12 schools serving 400 students in the only Appalachian county in the state considered to be “distressed” by the Appalachian Regional Commission who is using her grant to help purchase a school therapy dog.

“In our post-COVID world, the mental health of students is a heightened priority,” said Lisa in her grant request. “Students missed a couple of years’ worth of social interaction which has had a definite effect on their development, which impacts their behaviors in the classroom. We have witnessed an increase in elementary and high school students who are having trouble expressing their anxieties and frustrations.

“The purchase and implementation of a therapy dog in daily school life would be an amazing addition to our tool kit for mental health.”

Lisa said that many of the surrounding school districts have therapy dogs and “have found that they have been a big success in helping the children cope with a variety of mental stressors” as well as being used in other capacities within the schools.

The idea was presented to the school board and received support and positive feedback. A survey was given to faculty, staff, parents and students about the possibility of bringing a therapy dog to the district and they were “overwhelming

The expected accomplishments as a result of having a therapy dog in the classrooms include: improving reading skills (“Reading dogs listen non-judgmentally to students as they practice reading out loud which improves their fluency in and usually frequency of reading.”); helping students cope with school stress and improve their mental health (“Dogs in schools can attend meetings about discipline, Individualized Education Programs or social learning.”); increasing their confidence level and general mood (“Overall student well-being may also lead to improvement in their academic studies.”); and “time with a dog can be used as an incentive when students are working toward goals for attendance, behavior or academics.”

She explained that a school district employee will volunteer to be the dog’s owner/handler “and will take good care of the dog for its entire life,” including the expenses such as food, veterinary care and pet supplies. She noted that “there are several interested individuals.

“The lucky individual chosen for this will be someone that travels between the schools on a regular basis so both schools have equal access to the therapy dog.

“This will be an ongoing project and will last for eight to 10 years, which is the typical service span for a therapy dog.”

In Strawberry Plains, Tennessee, Kelli Smith, a special education teacher at Rush Strong School requested a grant of $4,000 for her project “Creating Life Skills Opportunities for CDC (Comprehensive Development Classrooms) Students.

“My students work hard to overcome challenges that many other students are not faced with,” said Kelli in her grant request. “Around half of the class is faced with a challenging home life. In the past, the CDC class had been in the back of the school and kept to themselves. Recently, we have worked very hard on including our CDC class into the general population.

“This grant would provide opportunities for my class to experience life skills opportunities that they otherwise would not be able to experience. Some experiences include running a class coffee cart business for teachers in the school, planning, shopping, and cooking a Thanksgiving Feast for some teachers in the school, developing Plainsmen Pals, a new peer tutoring program, and so much more.”

Kelli explained that providing a coffee car for staff members every Friday “would provide my students opportunities to practice real-world, job skills, such as taking an order, processing the order, counting money, counting back correct change, and interacting appropriately and professionally.

“The coffee cart would also get my students out of our classroom and allow them to interact with all teachers.”

She would also use a portion of the grant funding to have her students “plan, shop, and cook a Thanksgiving Feast that will feed their peer tutors and other teachers as a way to show appreciation for their help.”

Preparing a holiday meal “teaches students how to plan and budget for a large meal, cooking skills, and social skills associated with being a host” and “students also learn independence as they make their own plates.”

In addition, the grant funding is being used to create a new program for her class titled “Plainsmen Pals.”

“Plainsmen Pals is an extracurricular opportunity for students in the general education classes to become peer tutors, and more importantly friends, with my students,” she said, noting “the Plainsmen Pals help with the coffee cart, provide academic and social support to students, and attend our field trips as buddies for my students.

“Inclusion is invaluable and changes the lives of my students and the peer tutors,” adding that receiving the grant “will drastically change my class, and students’ lives.”

 

 

 

 

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