In 1983, a diverse group of educators, businesspeople, entrepreneurs and other leaders came together with a single purpose: to honor teachers who go the extra mile. Since the Area Education Grants (AEG) Fund was established, it has stayed true to that mission, giving outstanding teachers the tools and resources they need to make a lasting impact in students’ lives.
By awarding mini-grants each year to teachers in Boyd and Greenup counties, AEG has supported a wide range of classroom projects with a contribution of up to $500 per project. Although the number of projects funded by AEG varies year by year, the high quality and creativity of the projects do not.
“We’ve funded projects focusing on biochemistry, on the arts, on all kinds of subjects – basically, we’re looking for any type of project that the school itself isn’t able to fund,” says Scott Martin, AEG board member.
“My fear is that future generations will come along and never have the chance to play a drum or work with their hands or make something out of papier-mâché because of budget cuts,” Martin says. “If I can give a little bit of money to keep those things in the classroom, then yes, I will absolutely do my part.”
Kerri Keener, kindergarten teacher at Hager Elementary in Ashland, was awarded an AEG mini-grant to fund a year-long quilting project that incorporated math, science, writing, history, colors and shapes – as well as a small quilt for each child to take home at the end of the year.
“They became more and more comfortable with the sewing machine throughout the year, and it was amazing to watch their confidence grow,” Keener says. “They overcame obstacles and were proud of what they had accomplished. It was really neat to help them learn in a way that was fun and hands-on.”
Gretchen Neubeck-Hill, special education teacher at Crabbe Elementary in Ashland, received an AEG grant to help fund “Classy Crested Critters,” a classroom zoo made up of a crested gecko, hermit crabs, hissing cockroaches, fire-bellied toads and other “critters” found in textbooks and storybooks.
“Seeing them relate information from a math or science textbook to this project, helping them make those cross-curricular connections, catching their excitement as they came through the door each day, it made everything worth it,” Hill says. “When you want to make a difference, you have to put in the extra time – and it’s worth every second.”
Teachers now apply for the grants by posting their project ideas on the fundraising website www.DonorsChoose.org, simplifying the application process and making it easier for donors across the country to support the projects. With the support of donors in the Tri-State and beyond, the Area Education Grants Fund at Foundation for the Tri-State honors the extraordinary teachers who encourage, challenge and inspire our children on a daily basis.