Twenty-five teams of Newark teachers with innovative plans to improve their schools will receive more than $200,000 in grants funded by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s $100 million gift to the city’s schools at a reception today.
More than 100 teams of teachers applied for the money after the nonprofit Foundation for Newark’s Future — the group responsible for spending Zuckerberg’s gift and funds raised to match it — announced plans to award the “teacher innovation” grants.
Winners earned up to $10,000 each and include groups of educators from 13 traditional and charter elementary schools, eight high schools and four special education schools.
“These grants are just the beginning of our commitment to ensuring that every school has the very best teachers — educators who innovate and take action to ensure that every one of their students is on a college and career trajectory,” said Greg Taylor, CEO of the Foundation for Newark’s Future.
The grants give teachers an opportunity to start programs tailored to the needs of their schools. Programs awarded funding include ones to boost literacy, use iPads for special education instruction and help high school students conduct complex chemistry research.
A committee comprised of three retired teachers, an administrator, a district official, and a charter school official selected the winning applicants, a spokeswoman for the foundation said.
Milagro Harris, a history teacher at Central High School, and three colleagues won $8,627 to establish “an inquiry-based social justice curriculum” that compels students to research Newark.
“The idea is to help the kids become experts on their own lives,” Harris said. “So often, the complaint from our teenagers in Newark is that the book knowledge is not relevant to their lives. Working on something like this changes that.”
Teacher Janet Mino at John F. Kennedy School will use a $7,729 grant to buy 10 iPads to help 31 autistic students learn to communicate.
When Mino first learned of an application that could help nonverbal autistic children communicate, she spent more than $500 of her own money to buy a device. The success had been remarkable, she said.
“After working with one student on my personal iPad, he was able to order lunch at the mall. He had a voice,” Mino said. “If we had iPads years ago, do you know how far along these young adults would be in the world?”
Teachers who wish to apply for additional innovation grants may compete this fall for nearly $400,000. A spokeswoman for the foundation said city education officials hope winners will share their ideas with colleagues in other schools to reach students across the district.