Merrillville Education Foundation awards grants for 14 school programs

Merrillville Education Foundation awards grants for 14 school programs

Projects in the Merrillville schools that include coding and circuit kits, a lyric opera teaching artist, puppets and boomwhackers will receive funding, thanks to more than $7,500 in grants awarded this fall by Merrillville Education Foundation (MEF).

Members of the MEF board presented a $21,134.71 check to Merrillville Community School Corporation board members at last night’s meeting for the money the foundation contributed to the schools in 2019. 

The foundation typically awards grants twice a year to support public education where public funds are not available. Teachers and administrators propose programs that encourage educational innovation, promote excellence, and create educational opportunities for students.

“We are very pleased to present these grant funds to our teachers and staff members,” Mary Hoffman, MEF executive director said. “The projects this round are very creative and tap the minds of our students in many areas of learning. 

“Technology, the creative arts, math, reading, and social/emotional development are some of the curriculum areas addressed in this winning grant round,” Hoffman continued. “Thousands of students from all grade levels will benefit because of these teacher grants.”

More information about these projects is available on the foundation website,

Since 2002, the Merrillville Education Foundation has awarded 424 grants, totaling $364,139.55.  These grants have impacted more than 116,726 education experiences for students in grades K through 12.

This fall grant award includes Fieler Elementary School Kindergarten Teachers Kathy Machura and Amy Burkhart for their project “Puppets as a Teaching Tool,” allowing them to purchase additional puppets to encourage learning and engagement in all subject areas. 

Shannon Cicero, a kindergarten teacher at Iddings Elementary School, will receive funding for her project “Sing, Move, and Learn!” to incorporate HeidiSongs, with multisensory activities, to meet the unique needs of students entering her classroom.

In addition, Iddings Instructional Coach Jennifer Pozdzal’s project “Reset to Refocus” will receive money to help decrease the number of discipline referrals in kindergarten through fourth grade by increasing students’ awareness of their own neuroanatomy and providing them with an area supplied with manipulating textural objects to help regulate their brains. The objective is to supply the teachers with the resources and supplies necessary to create a reset area in their room and be successful in helping to regulate their students. 

Salk Elementary School First Grade Teacher Carrie Brown will receive funding for her project “Building Our Brains with STEM,” an interactive, hands-on approach utilizing progressive building projects that will eventually be incorporated into her classroom. Additionally, Salk First Grade Teacher Rachael Hull will receive funds for her program “Manipulatives for Remedial Math” to offer flexible hands-on remedial math groups to boost students’ confidence, assist them with difficult skills, prepare them for the iLearn test, and build a foundation for their future classrooms.

Wood Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher Stacie Anderson won funding for her project “Teaching ELA and Math with Problem Solving Technology” to utilize the OSMO Program, a technology-based program to present activities for letters, sounds, CVC words, numbers, counting, shapes and problem solving to students at their own individual pace, with progress monitoring and goal setting along the way.

School Corporation Director of Media Services Janelle Bowen won funding for her program “Reading is a Real Treasure” to provide new and exciting books and bags to kindergarten through fourth-grade students. The program will enhance the development of reading skills and promote recreational reading over the summer months.

Merrillville Intermediate School (MIS) Fifth Grade Teacher Julie DiFiore will receive a grant to purchase 65 books from the “Who Was, Who Is, What Was” book series for students to use to research and learn about people and events. In addition, MIS Music Teacher Laura Dinkins will receive funding to use boomwhackers in fifth-grade general music classrooms. Boomwhackers are musical instruments that are made from plastic tubes that range in size and pitch. Since each boomwhacker plays a single note, students learn fun and creative ways to work as a team to play songs.

Clifford Pierce Computer Science Teacher Danielle Kowalewicz won grant funding for “Ultimate Coding and Circuit Kits to Teach C++” to help students to learn variables, functions, loops, statements and syntax and troubleshooting through fun activities and projects like building a ‘clapper’ light switch.

Merrillville High School (MHS) Theater Teacher Tom Mackey won money for his project “Explore Opera with Lyric Opera of Chicago” to engage a Lyric Opera Teaching Artist to guide students through a creative process to reinterpret select operatic scenes with their own words and music.

In addition, MHS Music Teacher Melinda Reinhart won a grant for her proposal “Together We Perform at a High Standard” for students to learn, cultivate, practice and master numerous life skills throughout the journey of auditions, rehearsals and live performances of the spring musical.  

MHS Math Teacher Charles Seligman won funding for “2019-20 Half Field for the Robotics Club” to cover the shipping for this year’s half field in order to practice for this year’s competition.

MHS Family and Consumer Sciences Department Head Carol Von Behren, sponsor of the Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) Club, will receive a grant for her program “Inclusion Dance.” The program is held for special needs students from seven schools, allowing them to interact with club teens. The program benefits club members as well as the special needs students.