NEEF Innovation Celebration Grant Tour surprises teachers with grants

Oct 2, 2019 | News

Katy Philbrick was guiding her architecture students through kitchen drawings on a drafting software when the North East Educational Foundation (NEEF) Innovation Celebration Grant Tour bus rolled to a stop at the Design and Technology Academy (DATA) at Roosevelt High School.

Back in January, Philbrick co-wrote a NEEF innovative grant application with teacher Wright Daggett for a fabrication laboratory, which they dubbed the DATA FabLAB. Daggett and Philbrick were about to find out they won $12,668 to make the DATA FabLAB a reality.

NEEF members, top donors, NEISD Board President Shannon Grona, NEISD Superintendent Dr. Sean Maika, and NEEF mascot Sparky cheered as Daggett and Philbrick walked out to a giant check, flowers and the Roosevelt HS drumline jamming out.

“I was not expecting any of this,” Philbrick said. “I was totally emotional, this was so unexpected and truly an honor.”

The grant will transform a forty-foot shipping container into a laboratory equipped with computers for design and tools for fabrication. The DATA FabLab will be accessible to an array of DATA classrooms and will house tools such as a Portable CNC Router, a 3D printer, a vinyl cutter and a laser cutter.

“We know we can design projects on the computer, we can talk about projects, but until they start making them, it doesn’t really register how things are done and how really amazing things are created,” Philbrick explained.

The teachers thanked the NEEF members and donors and invited them to tour their classrooms.

“All of the things we do here, there is a cost tied to them, and it’s hard to find those funds and so to be able to really expand what we’re doing and reach more kids is such a great opportunity,” Philbrick said.

DATA at Roosevelt HS was one of the three tour stops.

The day kicked-off at Thousand Oaks Elementary for two grant deliveries. Special education teachers Jessica Proctor and Paige Garcia received a grant in the amount of $5,960 to develop a sensory motor lab. Their goal is to provide the students with a sensory outlet that will allow them to bring themselves to a level so that they are able to be productive both academically and socially in the classroom. Thousand Oaks Instructional intervention teacher Tara Harris’ $3,804 grant will help fund sensory pathways, which offer students an opportunity to participate in brain breaks outside the classroom.

Huebner Elementary special education teacher Jamie Samplaski’s $7,079 grant will fund MotionMagix’s Magix Box, a software program that creates interactive floors through the use of a projector.

“Using the software, students are able to take part in countless activities that can range from creating buildings out of blocks to excavating dinosaur bones.  As the program projects activities onto the floor of a classroom, easy accessibility is provided for all students.” Samplaski explained. “Children can interact with activities and lessons as they sit, stand, or walk on the floor.”

Whataburger Community Relations Supervisor Melba Harris was thankful to be able to experience the grant deliveries.

“Today was an awesome day, we got to meet some wonderful teachers and we got to make their day awarding grants so it was totally amazing,” Harris said. “To top that off, Whataburger gave them some Whataburger coupons.”

The San Antonio-based fast food chain was one of the 32 companies invited to join the grant tour as top NEEF donors.

“As a supporter, it made me so proud and it made me just feels so good and it warmed my heart, to be able to witness the joy that the teachers felt just being recipients of these grants,” Harris said. “We are so pleased to be a part of it.”

NEISD teachers will receive a record $363,000 in grants for their innovative school projects from the NEEF at multiple surprise check presentations through Oct. 10.  That number increased approximately $63,000 from last year. Programs at Thousand Oaks Elementary, Huebner Elementary and The Design and Technology Academy at Roosevelt High School are four of the 60 projects across the District that received funds.

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