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On the way for elementary kids in Urbana: a dozen new ukeleles, tap-dance shoes for fifth-graders at four schools, three portable greenhouses and two bird feeders.

Meanwhile, in Champaign, 170 middle school students will get to experience the culture of 1920s Harlem, 67 fifth-graders will take in a musical in Chicago, and every classroom at Westview Elementary will be provided materials to build their very own “Calming Corner.”

And those are just a few of the $60,000 worth of goodies C-U public school teachers and students will be treated to. It all comes courtesy of the Champaign-Urbana Schools Foundation’s annual grants program, which this year will fund 81 projects affecting some 14,000 students at 27 schools.

Here’s a summary of the improvements, innovations and interesting ideas that won over selection committee members.


— Play, Explore and Engineer with STEAM: Ellen Archer-Puffer (Leal Elementary). For hands-on materials to promote creative thinking and problem solving with first-graders.

— Access to Technology: Morgan (Frazier) Brownfield (Jefferson Middle School). For headphones for progress monitoring and text-to-speech accommodations for students receiving special education services.

— Reading for Intervention: Lourdes Bustos (Dr. Preston Williams Elementary). For Spanish alphabet books to help students acquire comprehension.

— Nuestra Biblioteca: Teresa Castro Gutierrez (International Prep Academy). For kindergarten-level reading books in Spanish, focusing on celebrations and families.

— Doodletops: Martha Churukian (Yankee Ridge Elementary). For markers that spin and allow students to create unique drawings.

— Bilingual Brains: Guadalupe Delgado (Dr. Williams). For chapter books in Spanish to enhance literacy skills for fifth-graders.

— Challenging Chapter Books: Alison Dial (Dr. Williams). For Ready-to-Read high-interest chapter books.

— Early Literacy Readers: Kim Ford (Thomas Paine Elementary). For alphabet activities and books to engage beginning readers.

— Building Fluent Readers: Jennifer Haile (Barkstall Elementary). For culturally relevant picture books to develop fluency in reading aloud.

— Manipulatives and Materials for Math and STEAM Centers: Natalie Hanson (Robeson Elementary). For manipulatives for student stations.

— Books for Intervention: Lindsey Hasler (Jefferson). For high-interest books and noise-canceling headphones for reading aloud.

— Bird Feeder Exploration: Joseph Karny (King Elementary). For materials to construct and install two bird feeders for scientific observation and exploration.

— STEAM Writing: Nathan McCallum (Franklin STEAM Academy). For manipulatives and supplies for STEAM projects.

— Immigration Unit: Dianna Moore (Westview Elementary). For reading materials and props to reenact what it might have been like to be an Ellis Island immigrant.

— Books for Kids: Kathleen Morgan (Bottenfield Elementary). For engaging books that encourage independent reading and can be taken home and shared with family members.

— Finding Myself in a Book: Sequoia Munoz (IPA). For dual-language graphic novels and chapter books for fifth-graders.

— Flexible Seating for All: Rina Park (South Side Elementary). For flexible seating to be used in both special and general education classrooms.

— VersaTiles for Learning: Katy Plotner (Leal). For kits that allow students to practice literary skills and self-monitoring.

— Dash-ing Through Robotics: Hanna Reside (Bottenfield). For an additional robot and accessories so that more students can work on coding.

— Interactive Whiteboard System: Jessica Schad (Urbana Middle School). For an interactive wireless white board to incorporate more hands-on learning and interactive lessons.

— Video Social Skills: Ellen Schultz (Kenwood Elementary). For videos that support social skills development for special needs students.

— Project Ready to Learn: Melissa Wheeler (Dr. Howard Elementary). For expanding the limited number of classroom seating options.

— Year-Round Garden: Jill Quisenberry (Wiley Elementary). For three portable greenhouses to extend the growing season, allowing students to learn about plants throughout the school year.


— Career Awareness Days: Michel Maroon (Novak Academy). For 50 students to participate in an in-depth personal assessment by working with Nextier Advisors as they begin to identify college or career interest areas.

— Design Career Awareness: Roberta Westerman (Urbana HS). For three sections of senior-level art students to learn about careers in the design, graphic, industrial, web and animation fields, including two field trips to local design firms.


— Strolling and Singing: Tamra Gingold (Urbana HS) and Beth McDonald (Carrie Busey Elementary). For fifth-grade string program students at 11 C-U schools to perform in a joint concert with professional and student interns from the Urbana Pops Orchestra, students from the This n That group and dancers from the Urbana Fine Arts Center. The grant will also allow both districts’ string programs to purchase a half-size cello and musical accessories for the program.


— Interactive Music: Erin Anderson (Dr. Williams Elementary). For K-2 students to explore music through performance, composition and movement, using scarves, ribbons and instruments.

— Mock Interviewing 101: Robin Bedwell (Urbana HS). For students, with the help of experts, to develop their own career readiness portfolios, including résumés, completed job applications, interview tips and mock interviews.

— Exploring Local Ecology and Agricultural Systems: ESL teachers Lucia Black and Nicole Fitting (Edison Middle School). For students who are high-risk, low literacy and have suffered trauma and stress of recent immigration to experience local agricultural and nature resources, including visits to the UI Pollinatarium, Anita Purves Nature Center and Meadowbrook Park.

— Books Like Me: Christopher Brunson (Franklin STEAM Academy). For novels for all reading teachers, including ones with LGBT+ characters and narratives that will be available to students looking for titles that include them.

— School-wide Sensory Interventions for Children Affected by Trauma: Mindy Borden (Garden Hills Academy) and Nancy Yeagle (Thomas Paine Elementary). For training general education teachers who aren’t included in special education training and for calming/safe corners in all classrooms.

— Literacy Runway: Third Grade Fashion Show: Rusty Clevenger and Tracey Maxey (Dr. Williams Elementary). For art teachers to guide all third-graders through creating their own unique costumes based on a yearly literary theme. This year’s theme: “Charlotte’s Web.”

— Building Positive Impact Through Visual Culture: Lucy Christianson (Franklin). For materials for students to produce artwork for display throughout the school and on Instagram.

— Increasing Student Learning and Engagement Through Technology: Kristin Cortelloni (Kenwood Elementary) and Dana Lamkin (Champaign Early Childhood). For instructional apps and iPads for speech and hearing students from pre-K through high school.

— Glass Slumping: Josh Doniek (Centennial HS) and Carol-Lynn Comparetto (Central HS). For materials and instruction for students to explore new techniques and experiences in the visual arts.

— Biodiversity and Ecology at Fowler Farm: Laura Hlinka and Kevin Erlinger (Urbana Middle School). For students to explore, investigate and measure aquatic and soil ecosystems by determining sites and taking samples at Fowler Farm.

— Building Resiliency through Choice Coping Skills and Strategies: Sarah Lim (Jefferson Middle School). For respite chairs, sensory fidgets and headphones to help students process trauma, build motivation, understand perspectives and discover healthy ways to manage stress.

— Creating Podcasts and Videos: Katelyn Liss (Booker T. Washington STEM Academy). For technology for students to write, develop and produce podcasts to share their ideas and ownership of learning with their peers and families.

— Rat-a-tat-Tap: Cara Maurizi (King Elementary) and Jennifer Heaton (Yankee Ridge Elementary). For shoes and flooring to teach tap dance to fifth-graders across four different Urbana elementary schools.

— Krannert Center Performance Tao: Drum Heart: Karinsa Moline (South Side Elementary). For fourth-graders to take a field trip to Krannert to experience Japanese taiko drumming.

— Calming Corner for All: Lisa Mosley (Westview Elementary). For materials for every classroom to build its own Calming Corner.

— Understanding History: Being Japanese during WWII: Alyssa Pavlakis and Naomi Mang (Urbana HS). For class sets of “Farewell to Manzanar” — junior-level reading material to enhance interest and engagement.

— Makerspace Materials for the Library: Joy Price (BTW). For STEAM-related materials such as robots, stacking and chain reaction puzzles and board games.

— Trauma-Sensitive Classrooms: Savanna Robison (Urbana Early Childhood Center). For social emotional teacher training and materials to create Safe Places for students processing trauma in school.

— Enriching STEAM Lab: Kari Suratt and Marisah Garcia (Thomas Paine). For materials students can explore with in the school’s pilot STEAM Lab maker space — brick kits, Legos, straw construction kits and magnetic tile building blocks.

— STEAM Challenge Day: Kristine Scheu (Barkstall Elementary) and Jennifer Leach (Bottenfield Elementary). For supplies for each team of fourth-grade students participating in an upcoming cross-school challenge.

— Weighted Blankets: Whitley Tate (Jefferson). For blankets to help students control emotional anxiety and promote self-regulation in a positive way.

— Sensory Regulation: Emily Tidemann and Teresa Sooley (International Prep Academy). For wiggle cushions, finger fidgets, weighted lap pads and other materials that meet student sensory needs and help them regulate their sensory inputs.

— Never Bored with Keyboards and Ukes: Meagan Tipton (Yankee Ridge) and Angela Wyatt (Thomas Paine). For new musical instruments — keyboards (for second-graders) and ukuleles (fourth-graders).

— Surveying the Community: Michelle Turner and Diana Friedmann (Wiley Elementary). For STEAM materials to help students learn about water filtration, magnets and electricity, model building, area resources and how to improve their designs and processes.

— Sound, Music and the Human Body: Todd VanSteenhuyse (Stratton Academy of the Arts). For technology that helps students learn the physics of how the ear works and how sound and music travel to the ear and brain.


— Storytelling Through Public Art: Rusty Clevenger (Dr. Williams Elementary). For 79 kindergartners to observe and discuss stories depicted in two- and three-dimensional public artwork spaces in downtown Urbana.

— Backstage at KCPA: Martha Churukian (Yankee Ridge Elementary). For 50 fifth-graders to take a backstage tour of Krannert Center for the Performing Arts and learn what happens behind the scenes.

— The Haydn Project: Tamra Gingold (Urbana HS) and Meagan Tipton (Yankee Ridge). For 120 music students from grades 5-12 to undertake an intense study of Haydn’s musical influences.


— CU at the Ballet: Abby Crull (Westview Elementary). For fifth-graders to study the story of Coppelia, as performed by CU Ballet.

— Once in this City: Emily Kuchenbrod (Kenwood Elementary). For 67 fifth-graders to travel to Chicago to see the musical “Once On This Island,” the retelling of “The Little Mermaid.”

— Instruments for Orchestra: Curtis Viselli (Edison Middle School). For the purchase of one full-size cello for student use.

— Bringing Jazz to Life: John Currey (Central HS), Michael Allen (Centennial HS), Michael Brown (Franklin Middle School), Robin Heltsley (Jefferson Middle School) and Kim Branch (Edison). For bringing in a professional music clinician from Jazz at Lincoln Center to put on three days of workshops at all five schools for jazz band students.

— Composing with the Classics: Amber Owens (Bottenfield Elementary), Elizabeth Martin (Booker T. Washington STEM Academy) and Karinsa Moline (South Side Elementary). For 575 students at the three schools: access to the online platform Noteflight to create their own musical compositions under the direction of their teachers.

— Harlem Renaissance at Krannert Center: Kim Branch (Edison). For 170 middle schoolers to experience the culture and music of 1920s Harlem, including tickets for the performance at Krannert.


— Business & Personal Finance Laboratory: Brian McAndrew and Shanna Doggett (Urbana HS). For the purchase of an LED stock market ticker panel for the lab, where high schoolers will study business finance, entrepreneurship, sports entertainment, marketing and accounting.

— Building Financial Literacy through Play: Kindergarten teachers Erica Cooper-Peyton and Jeanette Delgado (Dr. Williams Elementary). For materials to help students develop financial literacy skills in a grocery and restaurant setting.


In a random drawing on Facebook Live Thursday, Champaign Mayor Deb Feinen pulled out the names of six teachers who submitted classroom book requests for up to $250:

— Kathleen Carter and Sarah Han (Dr. Williams Elementary)

— Michael Leonard (Jefferson Middle School)

— Jeniece Mitchell (Franklin STEAM Academy)

— Londa Neely (Urbana Early Childhood Center)

— Mary Danielle Schaub (Booker T. Washington STEM Academy)


Nine educators won $200 grants to pay for tickets, transportation or teacher subs:

— Lisa Aguilar (Leal Elementary)

— Danielle Cook (Novak Academy)

— Diana Friedmann (Wiley Elementary)

— Abby Heras and Sequoia Munoz (International Prep Academy)

— Angela Karuzis (Westview Elementary)

— Heidi (Meisner) Keen (Urbana Early Childhood Center)

— Tomas Milo (Robeson Elementary)

— Rhonda Tyler (Stratton Academy of the Arts)


Donors fund these ongoing grants, which cover a professionally led full-day workshop at Krannert Art Museum for high school students, who produce art for a community exhibit in November:

— Carol-Lynn Comparetto (Central)

— Jill Lagerstam and Roberta Westerman (Urbana)

— Shannon Percocco (Centennial)