2016 Karen Cox Memorial Grant Awardees

Fighting obesity in Kalispell: “With obesity and obesity-related illness overtaking tobacco use as the number one preventable cause of death, it is vital to get our youth active and nutritionally educated,” says Ross Darner, teacher at Evergreen School in Kalispell.

The school’s Evergreen Fitness Team (EFT) program does just that. Due to budget constraints, the school district has no money for the project. Staff raise the funds each year so students in grades 2-8 and their parents can take part at no cost.

Darner’s Karen Cox grant will help purchase equipment and healthy snacks for the program.

Stress management in Billings: “January is a month of change,” says Rachel Schillreff, librarian at Billings West High School. “Our students come back from winter break and immediately begin to prepare for final exams and a change in classes, both of which are stressful.”

Many libraries across the country offer stress management opportunities during this time, Schillreff says. Now, with help from a Karen Cox grant, Billings Senior can do so, too. The grant will help the library provide yoga and meditation classes, a relaxation nook, information on stress management techniques, a visit from therapy dogs, and more.

Special education in Bonner: Bonner teacher Breeann Adam will use her Karen Cox grant to buy an iPad Air 2 and several apps designed to reinforce learning for students with autism and other disabilities.

“These are typically students who require creative and unconventional methods of learning and review,” she says. “Evidence shows that students on the autism spectrum particularly benefit from using technology.”

The iPad Air 2 and apps will help Adam’s middle school students with reading, math, communication, speech and language, and other skills.

Great books in Great Falls: “Someone once said there are two kinds of people, those who love to read and those who are reading the wrong books,” says Great Falls High School teacher Joan Dailey. “It is my mission to put the right books into the hands of my students.”

Every year, Dailey surveys her students to learn their interests and reading habits, then gives them personalized book recommendations.

Some students avoid the library because they can’t finish a book in the allotted time and end up paying fines, she says, so they prefer to borrow from her classroom library.

Dailey’s Karen Cox grant will help her add about 40 high-interest young adult books to her classroom library, keeping it current and relevant.

Hokki in Helena: “We are a wiggly bunch!” says 4th-5th grade teacher Jodi Delaney at Broadwater Elementary in Helena. “Hokki stools are specifically designed to help students ‘keep moving while sitting still.’”

These ergonomically designed stools are beneficial for a wide variety of students, but they aren’t available for children who don’t have it specifically written as an accommodation, Delaney says.

“I have several students who need this tool to develop muscular strength and better posture/balance, as well as help them focus on task safely,” she says. Delaney will use her grant to buy four Hokki stools.

Music in Bonner: Potomac School teacher Sarah Schmill uses hand chimes to teach her 5th-8th grade music class how to read music and play an instrument. But her two sets of hand chimes are damaged beyond repair. “I have to turn students away from my class because I don’t have enough instruments for them to play,” she says.

Schmill’s Karen Cox grant will purchase new hand chimes, allowing her to include as many students as possible in the class.

2015 Karen Cox Memorial Grant Awardees

(Partial list)

Salish culture and earth science: Rebecca McGillivray of Hamilton Middle School used her grant to bring tribal elder Tim Ryan to teach students about traditional and contemporary uses of rocks and minerals. Nearly 150 students learned about geology, archeology, and indigenous culture.

Teaching weather: Yvette Jordan of Vaughn School District helped create “Tantalizing Temperatures,” a district-wide project that taught students about weather through math, reading, and writing. Her grant purchased materials for the project.

Reaching struggling readers: Gail Grossman of Riverside Middle School in Billings purchased Scholastic Action, a bimonthly magazine filled with articles designed to engage struggling middle school readers.

Humans & horses: Jeanne Cline of Custer County High School sent several students to the Pivotal Movements Equine Therapy Center in Miles City with her grant. “The goal is for students in the Emotional Education Program to develop healthy social and emotional skills,” she said.

Dogs and calculus: Birch Fett of Hamilton High School bought five T1-84 calculators for calculus class for the project “Do Dogs Know Calculus?” The project took calculus outside the classroom (and recruited Fett’s two Labrador retrievers).

Playing to learn: Children learn by playing, and kindergarten teacher Molly Kast of Rattlesnake Elementary in Missoula spent a lot of her own money to buy educational games and activities for her students. She needed more resources but couldn’t afford them. Her grant helped her buy math games, costumes and props, and much more.

2014 Karen Cox Memorial Grant Awardees

(NOTE: this is not a complete list)

Here is what a few of the 2014 Karen Cox recipients did with their grants:

Teaching weather: Yvette Jordan of Vaughn School District purchased materials for “Tantalizing Temperatures,” a district-wide math project that allowed students to learn about weather across the curriculum.

Basic supplies: Jessica Dufresne of Daly Elementary in Hamilton needed basic supplies like markers, crayons, child scissors, and construction paper. Her grant allowed her to purchase these, along with writing journals and books.

Humans and horses: Jeanne Cline of Custer County High School used the grant money to send several students to the Pivotal Movements Equine Therapy Center in Miles City for a day. “The goal is for students in the Emotional Education Program to develop healthy social and emotional skills,” she said.

Document camera: Kati McCaslin of Thompson Falls purchased a document camera for 5th and 6th grades to share student work, project educational games, and more.

Dogs & calculus: Birch Fett of Hamilton High School bought five T1-84 calculators for calculus class for the project “Do Dogs Know Calculus.” (Fett also recruited two Labrador retrievers, Bristol Bay and Kava, for the project.)

2012 Karen Cox Memorial Grant Awardees

Julia Hall, preschool special education teacher, Jefferson Early Learning Center, Missoula. Hall’s school serves preschool students with and without disabilities. “One area of our curriculum focus is on emotional awareness and emotional regulation, and important skill for future learning and success in school,” says Hall. “These can be challenging skills for young children to learn, particularly for students on the autism spectrum.”

Hall will use her grant to buy materials from the Incredible Years Emotional Literacy Curriculum, including a lifelike puppet the size of a four-year-old child. Children can easily relate to life-size puppets who look like their peers, Hall explains.

Wally the puppet helps children learn by modeling appropriate behaviors like sharing. He also helps them recognize facial expressions and emotions.

Sally Triplett, 5th grade teacher, Lincoln Elementary, Great Falls. Triplett will use her grant to provide quality books to all 5th graders and bring students of all reading abilities to grade level reading proficiency or above. The books are geared to motivate students to read by moving away from fear of failure and toward a genuine enjoyment of books. Triplett says the program will supplement two classroom libraries, helping students “to become high achievers and life-long readers.”

David Chalmers, 9-12th grade science teacher, Heart Butte. Chalmers teaches in one of Montana’s most isolated, high-poverty schools, on the Blackfeet Reservation. “I want all of our students to be so excited about science that they want to come to school every day because they might miss something ‘cool,’” he says. “I want them to discover science so that they can see that learning can be fun, can be useful, and can be a way for them to experience the world around them.”

Heart Butte lacks many of the basic items needed for a science program —Bunsen burners, beakers, cylinders, test-tubes, and the list goes on. Chalmers will use his grant to purchase many of these basic items, in his quest to build a strong science program from scratch.

2011 Karen Cox Memorial Grant Awardees

Kim Duke, kindergarten teacher, Frenchtown Elementary, Frenchtown. “With 21 kindergartners, my goal is to meet the very diverse learning needs of each of my students,” says Duke. Her grant will help by purchasing Insta-Learn materials. These “self-checking” materials reinforce and speed learning by providing immediate feedback to children. “They provide hands-on student instruction while freeing up the teacher to work with small groups,” says Duke.

Cheryll Amen, 2nd grade teacher, Orchard Elementary, Billings. Research shows young readers need to hear expert reading modeled every day, says Amen. But her students are in the lowest socioeconomic bracket and receive little or no reading support at home. With her grant, Amen will set up listening centers so students can hear good reading and practice independently. The grant will purchase CD players, headphones, and read-along CDs to supplement current reading instruction in her classroom.

Abby Stitt, 3rd-4th grade combined teacher, Potomac School, Bonner. Stitt’s grant will allow her school to buy applications for 15 iPads. She explains: The Pages application allows the iPad to become a word processor. Meteor Math helps students master math facts. Geographia teaches states and capitals, and National Geographic World Atlas provides access to outstanding world maps.

Lauree Sayler, K-5 music teacher, Florence Carlton Elementary, Florence. Sayler’s grant will purchase special construction paper for students to make masks for a school-wide event that weaves art, reading, writing, speaking, and music, using Hanneke Ippisch’s Spotted Bear, A Rocky Mountain Folktale as a theme. Students will present their masks, stories, poems, and songs at a community event. “In this day of rigorous test taking, this activity will allow students to participate in higher level thinking skills and creativity,” Sayler says.

Angie Sinrud, K-8 Explore School teacher, Helena Public Schools. Explore School brings homeschool students into the public school district for science education. The program works to meet the needs of students with various learning styles, since learning style differences may be part of the reason kids are homeschooled, Sinrud says. Her grant will help purchase science equipment for the program.

Susie Kenison, 1st grade teacher, Ridge View Elementary, Belgrade: To become good readers, children need to spend time daily with engaging books they can read successfully. “But many families don’t have appropriate books at home for early readers,” says Kenison. With school funding cuts, she has to spend her own money on books for her classroom. Kenison’s grant will buy books from the Take Home Reading Program, bringing her students an extensive selection of quality books at their reading level.

Amanda Howland, 2nd grade teacher, Orchard Elementary, Billings. Second grade teachers at Orchard are “eager to widen our students’ interest in writing,” says Howland. “However, classroom materials are very limited.” Her grant will give teachers access to a variety of writing tools, teacher resource materials, and supplies to “foster independent writers who are able to communicate their ideas.”

Tanya Kirschman, K-6 counseling, Highland Elementary, Billings. Kirschman’s grant will help reduce bullying at her school with the Purple Hand Pledge program. This program motivates students to apply healthy problem-solving and anger management skills, Kirschman says. Students who adhere to the pledge (“I will not use my hands or my words for hurting myself or others”) qualify to win monthly prizes. Kirschman’s grant will help purchase the incentive prizes.

Dawn McCrohan, kindergarten teacher, Bitterroot Elementary, Billings. Dawn’s grant will purchase several popular books used with the common core math standards for counting skills, patterning, and sorting skills.

The books are suggested/required but not provided by the school district, she says. “I either have to borrow these books from other teachers who are also using the books or track them down through multiple libraries. Sometimes I have to do without because we can’t get our hands on the books.”
Lisa Scott, 7th grade teacher, Castle Rock Middle School, Billings. Scott’s grant will buy Flip video cameras so her students can participate in an annual math competition called “Reel Math Challenge.” Students will work in teams of four to create videos of innovative solutions to challenging math problems that relate to real life.

2010 Karen Cox Memorial Grant Awardees

Tammy Hetland, Becky Mundt, Karen Nave, Kim Watterson, and Darla Williams, extended studies, Billings Public Schools. These five teachers work with gifted students in grades 3-6, at 22 elementary schools in Billings. Their grant will allow them to purchase materials so these students can explore real-world science.

Science is the subject that most intrigues young high-ability learners, yet it is taught less frequently than any other subject in elementary school. Plus, gifted students are significantly more likely to retain science content when they have the chance to learn at a fast pace and think in ways associated with inquiry: asking questions, planning and conducting investigations, and using appropriate techniques to gather data. This grant will allow them to do just that.

Tyra McDonald, grades 6-8, C.S. Porter Middle School, Missoula. Tyra’s grant will purchase seven “clickers” so teachers at C.S. Porter can do presentations on inter-write boards or projectors without  going back to the computer every time they need to change slides. Often the computer is located in the back of the room, which hinders group discussion and classroom management. The clickers will allow teachers to move around the classroom and switch slides from any location. Sweet and simple.

Kasey Dirnberger, grades 6-8, C.S. Porter Middle School, Missoula. Kasey’s grant will purchase an internet hub and router, allowing the school’s exploratory teacher, who works with all grade levels, to use laptop computers with wireless internet access. This will free up the school’s current Computer On Wheels (30 computers in one cabinet) for use in the rest of the school’s classrooms. The goal: more computer access for all students and teachers.

Vicki Wittman, grades 9-12, Bozeman High School. Vicki aims to increase the reading skills of struggling readers by offering more high-interest, high-level books associated with the research-based Read 180 program. Currently, students in Read 180 classes for multiple semesters often run out of high-interest books. They tend to avoid libraries and have difficulty finding books they like within their reading level. The grant funds will purchase additional Read 180 books to keep those students reading and loving it.

Katherine Bachrach, K-8 counseling and guidance, Helena Flats School, Kalispell. Katherine will use her grant to purchase “Why Try” training and materials. The successful “Why Try” program reduces truancy and classroom distractions by engaging at-risk students. The program teaches students essential life skills such as effective communication and listening, understanding the consequences of their actions, making decisions, resisting peer pressure, overcoming challenges, and the importance of personal effort and motivation.

2009 Karen Cox Memorial Grant Awardees
Patty Muir, Laurel Middle School, Laurel. Muir will use her $500 grant to equip each grade level (5-8) with a Flip camcorder in order to record projects, plays, presentations, and more to share with parents and community. “So often parents and community only see the finished project such as the final diorama, a poster, an animal habitat, but are unable to see the process that evolved to get to the end,” Muir says. “The process is sometimes more important than the end result, as it may involve group work, research, interviews, and other higher level thinking skills.” The easy-to-use $130 camcorders will allow students to record events and share them via open houses, parent-teacher conferences, and the school web site. Emily Palmer, Elysian School, Billings. At this small k-8 school, half of the students qualify as low-income and 22 percent are ethnic minority. “While we are proud of the high quality education we provide, we need to more effectively meet the different needs of our students,” says Palmer. Her $500 grant will allow Palmer to buy the software Inspiration, a research-based application that helps students plan and organize thoughts for verbal and written projects, research and evaluate ideas in all subject areas, comprehend and communicate ideas verbally and in writing, and increase technology skills. Rebecca King, 1st grade teacher, Broadwater Elementary, Billings. To help with her goal of making math lessons more interactive and hands-on, King will use her $300 grant to buy materials including MathStart books and teaching guides; math activity reference books; and manipulatives such as plastic coins, pattern blocks, and connecting rods. Ross Darner, 5th-8th grade teacher, Evergreen School, Kalispell. Darner’s $500 grant will help pay for staffing, healthy snacks, and field trips for the school’s Evergreen Fitness Team, an after-school and summer program. Fitness Team provides students with a health risk evaluation and a personal workout and nutrition program designed to fit their specific needs. “This program receives no funds from the school district,” says Darner. “All funds are raised via grants, pizza card sales, car washes, and a school carnival.” Due to the high percentage of poverty in the school district, students participate for free. Geoffrey Habel, 9th-12th grade teacher, Great Falls High School. Great Falls High uses an engaging, fun, project-based learning program called “WarFair” that includes about 600 English, math, science, history, art, business, Montana history, and drama students. “The goal is simply to engage all students in a lesson that encompasses a variety of subject areas and allows them to immerse themselves in a topic that produces real-life learning and gets real life results,” Habel says. Results show the program is achieving this goal. Habel’s $350 grant will help purchase art supplies.