Merrillville teachers, administrator win foundation awards

Merrillville teachers, administrator win foundation awards

Merrillville Education Foundation (MEF) recently awarded seven grants to enhance the learning experiences for Merrillville students. 

Social-emotional learning, language and math spiraling materials, and culturally diverse books were just a few of the awarded grants to teachers and an administrator in the Merrillville Community School Corporation. The award money totaled $3,905.99.

“The grant committee is very pleased to award this spring’s round of grants to very deserving winners,” said MEF Executive Director Mary Hoffman. “We are happy to support these educators. Their projects will inspire students to be successful in the classroom and beyond.”   

John Wood Elementary School Kindergarten Teacher Stacie Anderson won funding for her project “SEL is Essential,” which will use books, yoga techniques and the PATHS curriculum to enhance the social emotional learning curriculum for kindergarteners.

The program will teach kindergarteners basic life skills, how to interact with their peers, and deal with their emotions with activities like daily story readings, self-checks, and yoga activities.

Wood Elementary School Fourth Grade Teacher Morgan Vlassopoulos also won funding. She will use grant money to sponsor the magazine subscription “Dynamath” for fourth graders at both Wood and Miller Elementary Schools.

The material will give educators another way to keep students engaged through small group, whole group, and even individualized, independent instruction.“Our students have really enjoyed these magazines and have greatly benefited from them,” Vlassopoulos said. “They love the articles and the resources such as the interactive games that are available with each edition to supplement their learning in the classroom.”

Miller Elementary School Principal Jennifer Griffin’s, “I See ‘Me’ When I Read” project won MEF grant funding. She said through her project, students will build their own home libraries with culturally diverse books with characters and content that they can connect with as well as learn of other cultures. 

“The program will teach students to take pride in their cultures and extend their love of reading,” said Griffin. “Our students will love reading while increasing their own literacy skills.” 

The project includes collaboration with library media staff, classroom teachers, principal read-alouds, and guest readers from across the country.

Fieler Elementary School Teacher Michelle Curry earned MEF support for her project “Zone Regulation” that will help students manage emotional stress that occurs in the classroom.

Her grant money will cover materials to help students decrease anxiety, unwanted negative behaviors and provide better ability to focus on learning academics in the classroom.

In addition, her project will give teachers the tools to help students regulate their emotions, creating a more positive atmosphere where students and teachers alike can focus on mastering skills for academics, leading to better test scores for the classroom and state standardized testing.

The MEF will provide funding to Debbie Czazasty, Fieler Elementary School third grade teacher, for Mountain Language and Mountain Math Sets.

“Third grade teachers at Fieler would like to use these for spiral review in grammar and math standards,” said Czazasty.

She said the materials will provide students with the opportunity to review and/or learn the standards presented in a quick, efficient manner to boost standardized test scores and overall academic performance. 

Merrillville Intermediate School Fifth Grade Teachers Joy Kent and Angela Wells won foundation funding for their project “Making Vision and Designs into Reality with 3D printing,” giving students the opportunity to be active and engaged participants through the conception, design, and execution of their projects and interacting with the 3D printer and the teacher. 

Lastly, MHS Teacher Carol von Behren will receive funding for the Inclusion Dance, sponsored by FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America).  The Inclusion Dance is held for special needs students from seven local schools and helps these students by allowing them to interact with other teens. 

There is no cost to the special needs students and young adults to attend the dance.            “The Inclusion Dance does not only benefit the special needs students,” said von Behren. “When FCCLA members see these students interact, it gives them a new respect for these students. They realize that special needs students aren’t different from any other teenager – they just have some special needs.”  

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

Since 2002, the Merrillville Education Foundation has awarded 443 grants to teachers totaling $381,988.65.  These grants have impacted 121,962 student experiences in grades PK through 12.

The foundation is committed to being the primary private sector partner in supporting public education where public funds are not available in the Merrillville Community School Corporation.

Merrillville Education Foundation, Inc. is designated a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization, and participates in a variety of ongoing fundraising events to generate monies for grants. All donations are tax deductible.