Teachers honored, awarded grants

COSTA MESA — Instead of budget cuts and more bad news from Sacramento, the Newport-Mesa Schools Foundation celebrated the community's top teachers Thursday night and awarded $147,000 in grants to support classroom innovation.

The Schools Foundation hosted its annual "Grants to Teachers" Awards Dinner in the grand ballroom at Turnip Rose in Costa Mesa.

"This was a great opportunity for our teachers to be recognized, not only for in the classroom, but for innovative grants they wrote," said Nicholas Dix, the executive director of the Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers.

The Schools Foundation is a nonprofit that supports education through teacher grants.

The organization is run by volunteers, and not just parents of students, said Newport-Mesa Unified school board President Dave Brooks.

The event showcases the community's dedication to schools through the volunteers that put on the event and the community businesses and local donors that fund the grants, he said.

The event feted 26 Teachers of the Year from each campus, including the two District Teachers of the Year: Jaymi Ropp, a kindergarten teacher at California Elementary School, and Laura Mayberry, a teacher at Corona del Mar High School.

Ropp "believes 'teaching is an art, one that takes practice and continual learning. I believe, like artists, teachers must [be] willing to research and experiment with new practices. I always knew a teacher is what I would become, and teaching is my art," read last year's District Teacher of the Year Terri Clarke. Clarke, along with last year's other District Teacher of the Year, Dana Kahawai, presented the awards.

The teachers were chosen by a committee after being nominated and submitting an application, which was reviewed by the prior year's Teacher of the Year, said Bonnie Brigman, a third-grade teacher at Kaiser Elementary School, who is on the committee.

The top scoring teachers are interviewed and observed before being chosen by the committee. The teachers need to bring a lot to the profession, and to the community, Brigman said.

Nearly 80 teachers were awarded grants ranging from less than $1,000 too as high as $5,000, said Barbara Harrington, president of the Newport-Mesa Schools Foundation board of directors.

California Elementary School teacher Natalie Hall won a $2,465 grant for ""I' Love Math," a way to teach students math concepts using iPads.

Rea Elementary School teacher Bridget Duffin was awarded $2,471 for "Drumming for Unity," to purchase tubano drums to create multicultural drum circles in the weekly music classes.

Other teachers were given funds to purchase SMART Boards, a MacBook Pro, books, art materials, microscopes, sheet musical and instruments, and LeapPad Explorer learning tablets, among other supplies.

Teachers spend so much money out of their own pockets and the foundation gives them a chance to fund their innovative teaching ideas, Harrington said.

"When things are so tight, it's nice for someone to say thanks," she said.


Twitter: @britneyjbarnes

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