Teachers win grants for innovation
By Tatiana Ambrosio
Two area teachers were named winners in State Farm’s Teacher Assist Program on Feb. 1.
Jennifer Francy, a math and science teacher at Pilot Point Intermediate School, and Elizabeth Moose, a music teacher at Brockett Elementary in Aubrey ISD, were two of only 40 winners announced for the entire state of Texas.
“Teachers innovate on a daily basis to overcome challenges in their classrooms. This year has required even more creativity than usual,” said Annette Martinez, State Farm senior vice president. “We are proud to offer a program that helps them reach their goals for their students.”
State Farm’s Teacher Assist program began this year as the company is recognizing that teachers are facing new challenges while teaching in a pandemic. Trying to capture their students’ attention and interest is now made a little harder whether it be in person with dividers, masks and social distancing protocols or in virtual learning situations.
Teachers had a window of four days to submit their innovative teaching ideas for the grant in January. Winners would receive $2,500 to implement or support their creative teaching ideas.
Jennifer Francy has had a year that has taken her from being a virtual teacher for fifth and sixth grades, to third through sixth grade virtual learning to now being on campus with most of her fifth and sixth grade math and science students as she maintains a virtual connection for a few.
She heard through friends of her parents about the contest with a couple of weeks to prepare an idea.
Inspiration came from a visit to San Antonio where she had seen a poetry post, she said. A poetry post is somewhere students can write poems and other students can take any poem that speaks to them.
Francy thought it would be most appropriate to plant a community garden and include a poetry post at their school.
“It’s a way to communicate to people and during this time in a pandemic, I know, they have a lot on their minds,” she said.
Pilot Point Intermediate already has a special tie to poetry with one of their students, Vail Johnson’s, poetry being celebrated and published after her unexpected death in 2016.
The garden Francy will create will also provide a place for students to get out and do something tangible to help those in need. It is deemed a “pizza garden” as it will grow vegetables specific to pizza ingredients for the purpose of enjoying the fruits of their labor in the classroom together.
However, it will also grow other fruits and vegetables suitable for the climate so food can be donated to those in the community in need.
“I know, from firsthand experience, the way to feel better during hard times is to help other people,” Francy said.
Elizabeth Moose heard about the contest in an email that Brockett Principal Courtney Siggers had sent out to her teachers.
Moose, too, only had a couple of weeks to put together her idea for submission.
As a music teacher in her 11th year of teaching, she wanted to create a way for her students to have the ability to compose music. She conceived the idea for her students to “Hear the Rainbow,” she said.
Previously, she had seen Sphero Specdrums rings which are app-enabled musical rings. By putting the rings on their fingers, students will be able to then touch different colors which will in-turn play musical notes, beats or sequences of notes that can be played on a loop.
Moose will have the ability to create specific notes or sequences for the students and can continue to change them. Each color of the rainbow is represented in the app.
Once the color is programmed with the musical component, the ring will work on any item with that color, making the ring play the note or sequence of notes.
That means students can have fun playing the colors on their shoes or the cover of a book in the classroom.
“I wanted something that all my students kinder through fifth would be able to learn and explore music with,” she said.