ST. GEORGE — In its tenth year of giving, the Washington County School District Foundation has awarded its millionth dollar as part of a $493 grant to kindergarten teacher Sara Reid at Three Falls Elementary.
At an assembly held Thursday outside Three Falls, Reid and 23 of her fellow teachers were awarded grants by the foundation to purchase teaching aids and make classroom improvements.
Students cheered as their teachers’ names were announced and they made their way to the podium. When Reid’s name was announced as the millionth dollar recipient, the children’s screams of excitement only got louder, and Chad Holt, the school resource officer, blared the sirens and turned on the police vehicle’s lights. As they posed with the grants’ sponsors, the teachers also received a gift basket containing a Bundt cake, a bouquet of balloons and a $25 gift card to Paparazzi Accessories.
“We are just so grateful for the generous support of our community businesses, Paparazzi in particular, that contribute to us being able to provide this money to the kids,” said Larry Bergeson, Washington County School District superintendent. “This is the best example of getting the water to the end of the row, and getting it right where it counts, which is to kids, and to teachers and the extra effort they give, especially in a COVID(-19) year, affecting every single kid – that’s worth its weight in gold.”
The foundation director, Steven Dunham, said that some of the more common items teachers request funds for are tools to teach science and math curriculum, including programmable robots and math manipulatives. Other teachers requested funds to create mini escape rooms for the students to test their problem solving skills or to purchase more books for their classroom libraries.
Some of the more unique items requested included a virtual reality headset for a high school geography class and a microscope camera for students to study their science experiments in real time.
Interested teachers could apply for grants up to $500 in value, with one teacher requesting just $47. The school district foundation began awarding grants this year on Jan. 20, and Dunham said they plan to award another 24 grants through the end of the week to give away the 768 awards and $353,000 funded for 2021.
“We had actually anticipated that this year would be the worst year in the history of the foundation because of Covid, and it’s actually been our very best year,” Dunham said. “We have had so many local businesses step up to say thank you to our teachers. It’s pretty exciting when somebody comes in and gives you $500 – that’s almost three times what the legislature gives them.”
Local businesses and even local individuals and families contributed to the grant program. Those available were often invited to attend the ceremonies held at each school when teachers were awarded their grants, Dunham said.
This is also the first year that the foundation has made grants available to school principals, and principal Brad Jolley was awarded a $1,000 grant at Wednesday’s event. Initially, the foundation board approved 20 of the 34 grants requested by principals this year, but was able to fund the remaining 14 due to the generosity of Paparazzi Accessories, Dunham said.
Twenty-two of the grants awarded at Three Falls Elementary were funded by Paparazzi Accessories, with the remaining two being funded by Dixie Power Kite Festival.
“As students of this county, many years ago, we looked at it and said this is an amazing way to help show our love and appreciation for the teachers that gave to us,” said Misty Kirby, one of the founders of Paparazzi Accessories. “To have a foundation that’s been able to give for ten years: that truly should be celebrated.”
Despite the challenges of 2020, Washington County teachers have received more money than ever from the school district foundation, and, after all the other awards were announced, students received the sweet news that they all would receive a little bag of chocolate coins to celebrate the occasion.
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