Teachers Reflect on 2014-2015 Classroom Grants

Berkeley Public Schools Fund Classroom Grants have been a staple of Berkeley public school classrooms since 1984. Some projects are small, requesting consumable classroom supplies or a single field trip. Other applications tackle bigger, innovative ideas: socio-emotional training, STEM curriculum, literacy materials. All of these 300+ yearly applications are brought to the Schools Fund Grants Committee and reviewed for creativity, budget detail, and overall impact. In the 2014-15 school year, we were able to award over $230,000 to 292 grants.

Rosa Parks Principal, Paco Furlan, receives a stack of Classroom Grant awards.
Rosa Parks Principal, Paco Furlan, receives a stack of Classroom Grant awards.

One of the best parts about the Classroom Grants cycle is reading through the Follow-Up Reports teachers write at the end of the year. Through these, we are able to see what worked, what didn’t; what inspired students, what inspired teachers.

These follow-ups are oftentimes beautifully written snapshots of teachers’ experiences, and we want to share a few with you from the 2014-15 school year:

Malcolm X teacher, Jessica Arroyo-Solis received a grant to bring Beats, Rhymes, and Life: Hip Hop Therapy to her classes. The program combines popular youth culture and community-defined strategies with proven therapy models to promote engagement, healthy relationships, and leadership among marginalized youth and young adults. In her follow-up report, Jessica wrote, “After reading some of the letters that the kids have written me to express gratitude for bringing this program, I’m confidant that this experience exposed them all to a whole new (healthy) way to cope with their feelings! Maybe a life was even saved!” Listen to one of the songs students created with this grant below!

Susan Gatt, a Rosa Parks teacher, received money for more books in her 4th grade classroom. Her goal was to purchase popular book series in order to encourage reluctant readers. She writes, “My students demonstrated tremendous growth in their fluency, accuracy, and comprehension. Most importantly though, I believe that this project did inspire my students to become passionate about reading.”

A student from Rosa Nelly Caloca's class last year embraces her food curriculum.
A student from Rosa Nelly Caloca’s class last year learning to cook nutritious recipes.

Franklin Preschool teacher Rosa Nelly Caloca received a grant for “Cooking and Tasting Multicultural Foods,” which encouraged children to make recipes from home and try each other’s food. She says, “By exposing our young students to healthy food choices through delicious and nutritious recipes, it is our hope that they learn to appreciate the value of healthy eating and take this with them as they grow strong and smart! This grant truly enhanced my teaching and engaged our students’ senses in a fun, yet educational experience.”

For the past eight years, Longfellow’s Mary Patterson has taken her 8th graders on a trip to Yosemite to participate in NatureBridge. Mary included quotes from a few students in her follow-up report.

“I really appreciate that you were able to take us to Yosemite; it was the highlight of my Longfellow experience.”

“To be honest, those four days were the best days of my life.”

“The main thing I learned from this trip was to be a good steward of the land so future generations will get a chance to appreciate its beauty too.”

These are just a few of many, many stories from our Classroom Grants, and we look forward to more as we enter the 2015-2016 school year.

Listen to some of the beats created by Malcolm X students with the Beats, Rhymes, and Life program from Jessica Arroyo-Solis!


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