2019 Innovative Teacher Mini-Grant winners announced
Press Release
August 27, 2021

2019 Innovative Teacher Mini-Grant winners announced

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (Oct. 24, 2019) – The Turning Foundation, in partnership with The Raymond John Wean Foundation, has awarded 13 Innovative Teacher Mini-Grants to instructors in Ashtabula, Columbiana, Trumbull and Mahoning counties. Recipients will receive cash awards up to $5000, with a grand total of $53,497 impacting more than 3,000 students in PK-12 classrooms during the 2019-20 school year.

Selection priorities in the application process included projects that:

  • Connect creative and innovative practice to student achievement and school improvement
  • Develop partnerships between schools and/or classrooms, and/or between classrooms and business/industry and community partners

John Wilson, director of the Turning Foundation, looks forward to awarding these grants every year because of the effect that they have on area teachers and their students.

“The applications this year showed an impressive level of innovation,” he said. “It is a privilege to provide funding for projects that will have a positive impact on student success.”

Winners of the Innovative Teacher Mini Grant for the 2019-2020 school year are:

  • Tracy Archuleta, Jefferson Senior High & Middle School, Jefferson Local Schools, for a project to support the school’s growing makerspace with the addition of more equipment and supplies so that more students will be reached by collaborating with the Junior High mentorship/makerspace relationship. This will show students what the school’s makerspace is, how to use it and what impact it has on them. The project expands on a previous grant award.
  • Heather Floran, McGuffey Elementary, Youngstown City Schools, for a project that gets students to read using Accelerated Reader to monitor students’ independent reading. New books will be purchased from Scholastic and designed for this project. The project will also work with Youngstown Public Library to teach students how to choose books on their reading level.
  • Amy Gordiejew, Taft Elementary, Youngstown City Schools, to support Taft’s book club project. Accessing culturally relevant literary materials is essential to growing reading interest and proficiency in urban schools. This project aims to get K-8 students diving into high-interest books as members of a new literacy group that encourages deep thinking, writing and dialogue in a safe and engaging space.
  • Kelly Hutchison, Warren City Schools, to support “Race to Space.” To make connections and apply scientific concepts, children need multiple opportunities and multimodal experiences. This preschool project celebrates the 50th anniversary of the moon landing, and promotes inquiry and exploration with young children.
  • Haylie Keylor, Champion Central Elementary, Champion Local Schools, for a project that will use virtual reality headsets and the CoSpaces Edu app so students can build their own 3D creations, animate them with code and explore them in virtual reality. This program will improve digital literacy skills, enhance creativity and foster collaboration in the classroom.
  • Jaclyn Kuntz, Struthers Middle School, Struthers Schools, for a program focused on improving eighth grade reading using the Lexia learning system. The program will benefit all students by improving their performance index and self-confidence in reading. Data can be used to create lessons that are specifically designed for each student.
  • David Murduck, Champion Middle School, Champion Local Schools, to support the development of the Outdoor Learning Lab for Champion schools by expanding the use of technology for the outdoor education program used by all 1400 students in the district. Providing digital microscopes and stereoscopes will help connect the use of technology with outdoor education programs in the district and expand collaboration with other community partners.
  • Tia Phillips, Willard PK-8, Warren City Schools, for the Men of Distinction program. This program connects students with men from the community making themselves available to help guide students into motivated, responsible, informed and capable young men of noble character. This program replicates a grant award winner from last year at Jefferson PK-8.
  • Jill Redmond, McGuffey PK-8, Warren City Schools, for “McGuffey Explores Wellness,” an after school program exposing students to careers promoting wellness. Students experience hands-on opportunities both in the school and community, while fitness and nutrition are promoted in team settings. Students are exposed to careers in fitness and nutrition. This program expands on a previous grant award.
  • Heather Smith, Rayen Early College Middle School, Youngstown City Schools, for a project that uses the Thrively Strength Assessment to develop a sense of self-awareness and help teachers learn who their students are and what interests them. This information will help teachers create engaging classrooms and develop lessons aligned to student interests as well as promote student empowerment.
  • Maria Stratis, Youngstown  Rayen Early College, Youngstown City Schools, for a project that will provide planning sessions to ensure that every student at Youngstown Early College is on track for graduating and achieving an Associate’s Degree from YSU.  It provides access to experts in selected careers via Topic Seminars that will help students select college courses of study that are a good fit for all.
  • Eleanna Vlahos-Hall, Jefferson PK-8, Warren City Schools, for the Men of Distinction program, which assists in the process of developing young males into emotionally competent men who are assets to their families and communities.  Students are paired with volunteer males from the community helping to guide and motivate participants. This expands on an award from last year.
  • Amy Walters, Paul C. Bunn Elementary, Youngstown City Schools, for a school/community project that models local/national collaboration by integrating visual arts into the reading/writing process in K-4 classrooms with the utilization of a renowned author/illustrator in residence. Students’ roles as authors/illustrators will engage/excite students about their performance on the third grade assessments.

For more details, visit the Turning Foundation website.


All voices are heard and all voices are counted. In my mind, there is no limit to the inclusive possibilities that can be created with this technology.

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