Junior League of Dallas awards 40 Dallas ISD educators funding through annual Grants for Innovative Teaching program


Last week, the Junior League of Dallas (JLD), along with presenting sponsor Texas Instruments, held a virtual presentation to award 40 Dallas ISD educators with grants of up to $2,500 each through the annual Grants for Innovative Teaching (GFIT) program.

Since 1992, this JLD Signature Project has awarded more than $1.9 million to Dallas ISD educators and is designed to encourage excellence in education by funding special projects addressing: reading and literacy enrichment; diversity; special education; science, technology, engineering and math (STEM); or arts and culture enrichment across one or more grade levels.

This year, more than $85,000 was distributed to fund deserving educators’ winning projects. Other sponsors include the Hillcrest Foundation; Bank of America, N.A., Co-Trustee; and Agnes Cluthe Oliver Foundation.

Some of the grants selected include: Basketball Recycling, Drummin’ and Movin’ with Drums Alive!, Music Recording and Production in the Modern Music Classroom, Rigor with Robots – Taking it to the Next Level and Kids Helping Kids. The projects awarded GFIT grants will provide students with diverse experiences and highlight the innovation of the Dallas ISD educators.

Basketball Recycling provides the opportunity for students to collect information and analyze data while exploring the research question: “Can recycling save our planet?” The students will roll out a series of recycling drives in the form of basketball hoops color-coded by grade. Students will shoot their empty water bottles in the hoops during passing periods. At the end of the school day, the empty bottles will be collected, counted and recorded per grade to analyze, graph and make conclusions. This process will be duplicated three more times in the school year for students to create their final reports on recycling.

Drummin’ and Movin’ with Drums Alive! has the goal of providing students with diverse learning styles and backgrounds with a creative hands-on curriculum that will forge a path for success. The project will combine active movement activities and rhythmic drumming activities to improve physical condition. Students can drum independently or in groups using various patterns and music genres. With opportunities to participate 2-3 times per week along with Physical Education coaching, students will be tested on physical/cardiovascular conditioning, endurance, strength, speed, and flexibility.

The goal of Music Recording and Production in the Modern Music Classroom is to develop the technical skills of sixth-grade students by guiding them to create original compositions using audio recording digital technology. As a final product, students will submit one original multi-track recording and mix of their work, which will include one vocal track, a loop, and an instrumental track recorded in class. Students will not only be able to record themselves singing, rapping, or playing classroom instruments, but the technology will work as an instrument and equip the students with a wealth of digital instruments at their fingertips to explore and realize their musical vision.

Rigor with Robots – Taking it to the Next Level will engage students who have been identified as having moderate to severe autism or moderate to severe intellectual disabilities with hands-on learning opportunities with LEGO Mindstorm robots. The use of the robots will help students to become independent learners and develop 21st-century skills including problem-solving, comprehension, task analysis, communication, creativity and critical thinking. This project will provide students the ability to utilize technology and demonstrate critical thinking skills while at the same time, building social skills.

A continuation of a previously GFIT-funded program and an 11-year tradition at the school, Kids Helping Kids provides the opportunity for special needs students at Multiple Careers Magnet Center to construct wooden rocking horses for children staying at the Ronald McDonald House during the Christmas holidays. In addition to bringing a bit of holiday cheer, students participating in this project will develop good habits, positive attitudes and valuable career skills that can be used beyond the classroom.

“For 29 years, this JLD Signature Project has encouraged excellence by awarding educators who go above and beyond to provide special projects for their students, which would otherwise not be possible within school budgets. This year in particular, it is especially important to help these unique programs continue in schools during such a difficult time,” said Megan LaDriere, the 2020-2021 GFIT Chair. “Each of the teachers receiving a grant is being recognized for their passion for providing experiences that are outside of the box for their students and engaging them in positive ways outside of the classroom.”

2020-2021 Dallas ISD Grant Recipients

Project Name School Educator Name
Library Makerspace Bayles Elementary School Sheila Ortega
CK2 – Club Kindness for Kids Central Elementary School Shelley Couch
Art Journaling Chapel Hill Preparatory School Suhaila Sachak
Music, Science & Innovation Dallas Environmental Science Academy Malcom Newman
Laboratory of the Future North Dallas High School Olga Sytnianska
Aquaponics: A Student-centered approach Daniel Webster Elementary School Edwin Portillo
FlUrNing’s STEAM Studio Daniel Webster Elementary School Caleb Davis
Smart Solutions E. D. Walker Middle School Michael Keeton
Kids Club: Developing a Growth Mindset Eduardo Mata Montessori School Sherri Fetter
Basketball Recycling Emmett J. Conrad High School Monalisa Chadha
Personalized Learning Stations George W. Truett Elementary School Maria Moreno
Innovative Learning for PE George W. Truett Elementary School Angela Miller
Sharper Minds H. Grady Spruce High School Manuel Rocha
Rigor with Robots-Taking it to the Next Level Harold W. Lang Sr. Middle School Megan Vance
Artistic Biology Innovation, Design, Entrepreneurship Academy at James W. Fannin Soniris Rosas
Keeping the Band In Time and In Tune J.L. Long Middle School Caitlin Schmidt
K-2 Future Coding Engineers Team John J. Pershing Elementary Jose Armendariz
Invent an Alien Barbara Jordan Elementary School Lynn DeFord
Increasing Biliteracy with iPads Jose “Joe” May Elementary School Karem Averanga
We Write Music Kleberg Elementary School Sara Cox
Voices of Vickery Lee A. McShan Jr. Elementary School Arianna Zeb
Elementary Audio Technician Master Level Leslie A. Stemmons Elementary School Chris Drews
This Project is BASSically Awesome! L.V. Stockard Middle School Beth Poquette Drews
Drummin and Movin with Drums Alive! Martin Weiss Elementary School Pamela Jenkins
Hornet Queens Margaret B. Henderson Elementary School Javier Alvarado
Kids helping kids Multiple Careers Magnet Center Terry Stotts
STEMS LAB (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math, Sensory) N.W. Harllee Early Childhood Center Norma Pardee
SeaPerch Underwater Robotics, Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) Piedmont Global Academy Willie Fowlks
Café Speak-uccino Pinkston High School Deidra Ballard-Moore
Engineering Design Richard Lagow Elementary Vanessa Alvarez
Top Gun – Piloting Partner PE into 2020 Robert T. Hill Middle School Shelly Thibodaux
Making STEM Come to Life with VEX V5 Robert T. Hill Middle School Eliana Tseng
Hip Hop Hooraying Through Math Ronald E. McNair Elementary School Rachael Edwards
Urban Invertebrate Biodiversity Survey School of Science and Engineering David McLoda
Green Screen Equipment for Solar Scientists Solar Preparatory School for Boys Rachel Hodge
Music Recording and Production in the Modern Music Classroom Solar Preparatory School for Girls Maria Marin
Exploring the Self: Career Self Portraits Sunset High School Gianna LoScerbo-Starkus
Leggo My Robot! School for the Talented and Gifted in Pleasant Grove Beatriz Bustamante
Structure and Functions of the Master Regulators of Pancreas Development Thomas Jefferson High School Ward Coats



The Junior League of Dallas cultivates leaders who collectively address the critical needs of the community. Founded in 1922, the JLD is one of the largest Junior Leagues in the world, as well as the largest and oldest training organization for women in Dallas. Active members range in age from 22 to 49 with approximately 85% percent of women employed outside of the home. The JLD provides leadership opportunities to nearly 5,000 women each year through more than 26,000 cumulative hours of experiential and formal training. Uniquely member-run, the JLD provides over 130,000 hours in volunteer service and approximately $1 million in funding to area nonprofits each year. For more information, visit www.jld.net.

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