Scott County teachers receive grants from WGU Missouri

Wednesday, June 9, 2021
Emily Essner, a kindergarten teacher at Kelly Elementary School in Benton, receives a check May 7 from WGU Missouri Strategic Partnerships Manager Jim Chandler.
Submitted photo

BENTON, Mo. — Two Scott County teachers were recently awarded grants through Western Governors University, or WGU, Missouri’s “Fund My Classroom” initiative.

Emily Essner, a kindergarten teacher at Kelly Elementary School in the Scott County R-4 School District in Benton, received a $250-grant to purchase various materials that will be used to create fine and gross motor experiences to strengthen her students’ abilities to perform everyday activities in the classroom.

Jaime Burger, a third grade teacher at Kelso C-7 Elementary in the Kelso C-7 School District in New Hamburg, received a $6,000 grant to purchase 22 computers that will provide her students with exposure to online programs, tools and devices to help them become comfortable with the use of technology in academics.

Jaime Burger, third grade teacher at Kelso C-7 Elementary, (center) holds an oversized check presented by WGU while posing with her class May 7 at the school in New Hamburg. Also pictured are classroom aide Michelle Armbruster (left) and Kelso C-7 Superintendent Dr. Kim Burger (right).
Submitted photo

Essner and Burger learned they were selected for the grants when they were surprised with check presentations at their schools on May 7.

The $250-grant Essner received will allow her to purchase materials such as nuts and bolts, beads, pipe cleaners, tongs, buttons, sorting containers, playdough, balls, hula hoops, jump ropes and various other fine motor skill experiences to benefit all students, especially those that fall through the cracks and do not qualify for occupational and physical therapy services. With technology on the rise and kids being introduced to things like tablets and games on phones at an early age, Essner said she has recognized that many of her students were lacking the fine motor skills needed to complete tasks and perform well in the classroom. Essner said she believes fine motor activities will help her students regain muscle and body awareness, in turn helping them excel and be fully functional in the classroom.

Burger will use the $6,000 funding to purchase 22 computers and transform her third-grade classroom into a one-to-one learning environment that will allow each student to have access to a personal, portable technological device. Burger’s students currently have access to shared devices, available for grades K-5 on a limited basis, and while she is grateful to have this time with devices to help foster her students’ learning, it is not enough, especially for those who don’t have access to devices or internet at home.

When teaching virtually, she found students who aren’t as familiar with technology became socially disconnected from the conversations, live lessons, read alouds and peer interaction that go along with being able to meet virtually. This created a larger gap between them and their peers, both socially and academically, according to Burger. By providing each student with a device, they would have more time learning at their own pace, less time waiting for instruction and more time developing key technology skills for a successful future, Burger said.

The innovative classroom projects were among 52 across Missouri chosen by WGU Missouri to receive funding. The nonprofit, fully online university issued a call in March for K-12 teachers across the state to nominate proposed classroom projects by April 18 for the opportunity to receive full or partial funding through its “Fund My Classroom” initiative. Nearly 400 nominations were received statewide. Most grants were awarded during Teacher Appreciation Week, which ran May 3-7.

“We were happy to read about all the amazing projects our teachers have planned and are excited we can bring so many to life through our ‘Fund My Classroom’ initiative,” said Dr. Angie Besendorfer, Chancellor of WGU Missouri. “This past year has been a challenging one for both teachers and students as they were forced to adapt to new styles of teaching and learning. This initiative is an opportunity for WGU to celebrate teachers and thank them for their dedication to educating and positively impacting their students, while enhancing learning for students – both in and out of the classroom.”