Phoenix Advisors Classroom Grant Winners Show
How A Little Goes A Long Way
Lisa MacDonald, a middle school language arts teacher with the Wharton Borough Public Schools in Morris County, and Jennifer Dolbow, a second-grade teacher with the Winslow Township Public Schools in Camden County, learned recently they were the grand prize winners of the Phoenix Advisors program, which was unveiled at the New Jersey School Boards Association annual workshop October 23-25, 2012.
At that conference, Phoenix Advisors selected 20 winners of $100 classroom grants by lottery from among the districts in attendance. Each district had to award the $100 grant to a classroom teacher, with the requirement that the teacher submit a presentation telling Phoenix how the money would used. Those who were most creative in making that first $100 benefit students would receive the grand prize: an additional five $100 grants to award to other faculty members at their schools or districts.
“Because we work with school districts, we wanted to do something to benefit the classroom directly,” said David B. Thompson, founder and CEO of Phoenix Advisors LLC. “We spend much of our time helping school districts save money, so we know
there is no extra money in school budgets. Any new money that arrives makes a difference. For us, and for the public, this is an opportunity to see how creative public school teachers can be with just $100,” he said.
“We were thrilled with the results of this first effort of working directly with classroom teachers,” Thompson said. “We look forward to awarding a new round of grants at the upcoming New Jersey School Boards Association conference in the fall.”
MacDonald, who is in her first year at Alfred C. MacKinnon Middle School, purchased a video camera to record presentations by her seventh- and eighth-graders in their language arts and media literacy lessons. MacDonald sought to draw her students away from texting and email and to emphasize the importance of traditional communication.
“Public speaking is important in any job you have,” she said.
Dolbow, who has been with the Winslow schools 13 years, ordered a set of non-fiction books from Scholastic, including several on famous African-Americans in time for Black History Month.
A children’s book on Ruby Bridges, the first-grader famous for integrating the New Orleans public schools in 1960, became the focus of a lesson on understanding differences and on what it’s like to do something for the first time. The lesson helped meet New Jersey’s core curriculum standards of comparing and contrasting – in this case, with President Barack Obama.
“We put ourselves in Ruby’s place,” Dolbow said.
Said Thompson: “What impressed us was that students benefited not just from what the teachers purchased, but from what the teachers did with the materials.”
Both teachers said $100 may not sound like much, but at the classroom level it makes a difference in developing curriculum that meets New Jersey’s strict standards. But Dolbow’s principal said she is a special teacher who rose to the occasion. “You would have thought it was $1,000, based on the way Ms. Dolbow responded to the challenge,” said Tamika Gilbert-Floyd, principal at Winslow School No. 3.
MacDonald and Dolbow must now decide how to distribute their five new grants. Phoenix Advisors LLC plans to present checks for the additional grants at upcoming Board of Education meetings in both districts.
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