BEF awards 257 teacher grants totaling more than $120,000

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The Bartow Education Foundation continues to dole out more money each year to help teachers offer more ways for their students to learn. 

At the 2018-19 Teacher Grant Banquet Tuesday night at the Clarence Brown Conference Center in Cartersville, 257 grants totaling more than $120,000 were awarded to teachers from all 20 Bartow County schools as well as employees at the central office and transportation department.

“Going back several years now, we’ve been able to give over $100,000 a year back to the school system, back to the classrooms, back to you, the teachers,” BEF President Greg Frisbee said, adding the foundation wishes it could’ve given grants to all 333 applicants.

BEF Executive Director Dot Frasier said the nonprofit awarded the most grants and the most money ever in its 24-year history and also received the highest number of grant applications it had ever received. 

“And the percentage of the grants turned in and awarded is the highest percent we’ve ever had,” she said. “This year is just bigger and better, bigger and better, than ever before.”   

Superintendent Dr. Phillip Page, attending the event for the first time, called the banquet “legendary” because the BEF had raised “well over a million dollars” to give back to the teachers.

“What I’m excited about is, one, that we can give away so many teacher grants,” he said. “I do not know of another school system that pours into the teachers like the Bartow Education Foundation does. I’ve never heard of that. Coming here and doing a little research before being honored to be superintendent, this was one of the areas that really stood out because it is unique. It is special.”

Page, who was joined at the event by school board members Fred Kittle, Derek Keeney and Anna Sullivan, said another thing he was excited about was the diversity in the employees who received grants. 

“As I was looking over the tables, I see new teachers,” he said. “I see first-year teachers. … We also have our veteran teachers. This is something that if you are an employee in our school system, you can benefit from. We have central office grants being awarded. We have each school being awarded, and I am just so proud to represent our school system as superintendent when we give back the way that we do.”

Ms. Frasier told the educators that she appreciated their “taking the time to sit down and fill out these simple forms and tell us, ‘I know my children. I know what they need.’” 

“And it doesn’t take a big bank account,” she said. “Sometimes some of the best grants I’ve read would be $195 or $300. God-called teachers can do and make it happen just with a little bit of resources.”

She also said she plans to visit the schools to see some of the grant-funded programs in action.

“That’s what really thrills my soul,” she said. 

Donnie Scott, the school resource officer at Cass High School, received a $500 grant for a program he started last fall called Ice Cream with a Cop.

Scott said he, other school system SROs, deputies from the Bartow County Sheriff’s Office’s Highway Enforcement of Aggressive Traffic Unit and K-9 officer Sgt. Chris Barnes and his dog, Nero, from the White Police Department go into Bartow County elementary schools to “talk to kids about their relationship with the police.”

“We go from kindergarten all the way up to fifth [grade], and we just communicate with them, and then we feed them ice cream, and we meet with the kids one on one,” he said. “So they have one-on-one time with a police officer there at the school. We’re trying to get the kids to understand that we’re police officers, and we’re human just as well.”

Since August, eight or nine officers at a time have visited classes at White, Pine Log, Euharlee and Hamilton Crossing elementary schools, Scott said. 

“We’re only trying to do one month, but it’s getting to be where we may wind up doing two a month because it’s so in demand to try to get the kids to understand who police officers are, especially at the elementary level,” he said. 

Alecia Bearden, the art teacher at Clear Creek Elementary, also received a $500 grant for the first time. 

“We bought Etch A Sketches for the kids to use, and we are also constructing a LEGO board so that they can build things on the LEGO board so just some alternative art things that they could use and do — work with architecture, teach them about different things the artists do,” she said, noting a parent is currently building the LEGO board.

Some of Bearden’s students haven’t quite caught on to how an Etch A Sketch works.

“One of them in one of the gifted classes, she took one of them, and she was like, ‘How do I work this?’” she said. “It’s so funny because I love Etch A Sketches. I keep one all the time now to play with.”

Bearden called the foundation’s grant program “wonderful” and “awesome.”

“Being an art teacher, a lot of my money comes from fundraising, stuff like that, so this is wonderful,” she said. “We can utilize this and get extra things for the kids.”

The grant program is funded by payroll deductions from school system employees as well as donations from businesses and organizations in the community, like longtime donor Woodmen of the World.

“We just like to give back to the school system for the students,” said Rufus Cantrell, a retired educator who’s worked with Woodmen Life since retiring. “It’s outstanding to be able to do this. [The teachers] do the things that teachers in other school systems cannot do. They go beyond what’s normally expected by doing the grants and then following through with the special education opportunities through the grants.”

Ms. Frasier said the grants help more than just the teachers who write them. Each year, Teacher Resource Center Director Kim Martin files grants by grade level for elementary schools and by subject area for middle and high schools so other teachers can use them in the future.

“This is our 24th year of giving grants to teachers, and these grants are used year after year,” she said. “It’s just wonderful the ideas that classroom teachers come up with. You know, God called classroom teachers, and he gave them that sixth sense to be able to know exactly what these kids need. … It’s amazing what they do. I truly believe that has helped our graduation rate so much from 1995 to now because nobody knows children like that classroom teacher knows them.”