By MARINA WATERS
The Quality Educational Support for Tomorrow Foundation made five Washington County teachers very happy last week by awarding them with grant funds.
Over the past eight years, the QUEST foundation has set out to provide funds for programs and materials in the Washington County School system that are not covered through current local and state school funding. This year, the organization offered $26,000 to four schools in the district and added to the excitement of awarding the grants by delivering a check to each winner in his or her classroom.
“We want the teachers to be able to celebrate with their students because that’s who they’re writing their grants for,” QUEST Foundation Director Jim Harlan told the Herald & Tribune. “What makes QUEST unique is that we give money to individual teachers in individual classrooms. We know the money is being spent where the learning is taking place. That’s what’s special about it.”
This year Kristine Barrett of Jonesborough Middle School was awarded $4,000, Emily Blevins of Jonesborough Middle School was awarded $1,800, Ben Davenport of Grandview Elementary School was awarded $6,200, Jason Dossett of Daniel Boone High School was awarded $7,000 and Candie Wright of Boones Creek School was awarded $7,000.
Each year, the QUEST Foundation filters through its grant applications from Washington County educators to help fund projects for students in elementary school to high school. Though the dollars support a range of students in various classrooms across the county, most of the requests center around one main component — technology.
“Whether you’re a kindergartener or a senior in high school, technology is how you learn,” Harlan said. “And when you go into the work world, technology is how you do your job. We feel like it’s a great investment in our schools to give them the opportunity to use technology. Can you imagine going into a classroom where you have 30 kids and one iPad? You’d almost rather not have one because you can’t really give everybody that experience they need. Slowly but surely we’ve been able to make a pretty big impact across Washington County.”
In Davenport’s music classroom at Grandview Elementary, his soon-to-be-purchased Chromebooks will offer students a new hands-on way to learning about creating music.
“One program I’m really going to utilize with this is a program called Audacity,” Davenport said. “With this students can go in and make their own songs, record their voices and they can add sound effects. They can add in cymbals and they can layer it and it’s a multi-step process. It’s almost like they’re in a recording studio. How perfect is that for one of my lessons about how you record a song? It’s a great stair-step activity.”
Because the music classroom will now be equipped with a classroom set of Chromebooks, Davenport said his students won’t have to go to another area in the school in order to find Wi-Fi.
“Anytime we really want to use technology, we have to go to a chrome lab or another computer lab somewhere in the building,” Davenport said. “Up to this point, we’ve not had Wi-Fi in here. Getting these Chromebooks is kind of a catch 22 — we get Wi-Fi with the addition of the chrome books on this end of the building. That’s an exciting thing for us to be able to have and use.”
For the other grant winners, the money will be put towards adding technology to academic areas such as science, social studies and literacy.
Harlan said each year the QUEST Foundation works to provide funds to academic classrooms as well as those in the related arts and career and technical realm.
“We always try to look for things that are unique and go from kindergarten to high school,” Harlan said, “that way you’re getting a good spread of money to focus on science, technology engineering and mathematics and arts. Take Ben Davenport’s class. Here is a great way you use technology in music education. (At) Daniel Boone they’re using technology on drones and arial mapping for agriculture. That’s what’s great about what QUEST is able to do. We’re able to meet needs across the whole spectrum.”
Those five teachers might have been surprised at first to see a group of QUEST board members and school officials walk into their classroom with a check last week, but more than that, the grant funds were awarded with a lot of gratitude to match.
“I was really surprised,” Davenport said. “I’m surprised and I’m thankful because I’m glad people give to QUEST. And I’m glad they have an opportunity like that for teachers to really go the extra mile. You have a chance to do all these great things. I’m really glad those things are there and that we were chosen.”