Five teachers earn first Catalyst for Change grants


Published: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 6:03 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, October 22, 2013 at 6:03 p.m.

Five teachers at four Alachua County schools are receiving a total of $21,000 in grants through the Education Foundation’s Catalyst for Change program.

The five awards, which will be presented Wednesday, represent the first round of grants disbursed through Catalyst for Change.

The program seeks to finance innovative teaching practices that focus on career and technical education, STEM education, increasing literacy and graduation rates, improving teaching quality and targeting low-performing students.

The Education Foundation received 12 grant applications and chose five projects:

  • “The Singularity is Near: Physics of the Future,” by Timothy Hinchman at Mebane Middle.
  • “Lighting Up Their World” by Linda Zidonik at Meadowbrook Elementary.
  • “Read to Achieve” by Brooke Newell, also at Meadowbrook Elementary.
  • “Increasing Labs and Instructional Effectiveness for GHS Chemistry,” by Jay Schaub at Gainesville High.
  • “The More We Read, The Better We Read,” by Melissa Baker at Idylwild Elementary.

Grant amounts are between $2,000 and $5,000. Catalyst for Change is funded through community donations and matching funds from the Consortium of Florida Education Foundations.

Brooke Newell, a curriculum resource teacher at Meadowbrook Elementary, was given about $4,260 for materials that will help low-performing fifth-graders improve their reading skills.

“I’m very excited to have the grant funded, especially since education budgets are being cut so much,” Newell said.

Meadowbrook teachers will record data and track the students using the materials to see how much improvement is made each year. The goal is to have 80 percent of the 111 fifth-graders at Meadowbrook achieving at least a score of 3 on FCAT Reading.

“Hopefully, we’ll see some improvement in their scores,” she said.

Linda Zidonik, the art teacher at Meadowbrook, collaborated with fifth-grade teacher Coralee Corbin on another project.

A $2,100 grant will go toward a science and art project for fifth-graders. Students will build ceramic lamp bases in Zidonik’s class, and in their science classes they’ll learn how to build a closed circuit.

When they combine the two, they’ll have a working lamp.

“I love the fact that we can put everything together,” Zidonik said. “And they’re going to have to figure out the problem-solving of making it so it will actually work … and then they get something memorable.”

Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or erin.jester@gainesville.com.

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