Donate now and make pot bigger next year for more celebrations

by: COURTESY PHOTO - Dot VanDyke and her choir students at Neil Armstrong Middle School celebrate their award of $300 for new choir music. Its impossible to grow musically without new songs, VanDyke said.For seven Forest Grove teachers, their lucky day came earlier this month.

The Education Foundation of Forest Grove doled out more than $1,800 in grants, dividing the money between seven different classrooms.

The foundation received 15 applications requesting a total of more than $5,000, according to Dawn Smith, the group’s development coordinator.

“We tried to look at what would serve the district best,” Smith said, adding that the 10-member foundation board assessed each application with a three-part rubric.

This year, the grant awarding was more celebratory than usual, with hand-delivered notifications accompanied by certificates and balloons.

“Everyone was ecstatic,” Smith said. “We wanted to give them the recognition they deserve for taking the extra time for their students. A lot of the teachers took time outside of work hours to fill out the applications.”

n Forest Grove High School teacher Adam Karp received $500 for three-dimensional geometry shapes. "For my Geometry classes, we teach pretty abstract ideas and don't always have the means for kids to physically interact with the curriculum," Karp explained. "Science classes can do experiments. History classes can visit historical sites. With the three-dimensional shapes I will purchase, students will be able to handle them, which allows a lot of learners to grasp information more effectively."

n Gwen Ashcraft, a counselor at Tom McCall Upper Elementary School, received $200 to help cover a peer-mediation program, which helps students who are experiencing a conflict. Ashcraft has been organizing the program for 17 years, but many of the funds that used to support it have been depleted with budget cuts, she said. Ashcraft currently has 48 trained fifth- and sixth-graders who were voted by their peers to act as mediators. The program helps students solve conflicts before they turn to bullying or harassment. The grant money will go to train future mediators, Ashcraft said, including an overnight retreat.

n Tom McCall Upper Elementary teachers Amy Peyton and Angie Carver received $335 to purchase calculators for classroom use. "Such a basic supply, but so needed," Peyton told the News-Times. "It was so important for us to get them before OAKS Math testing so that we could practice some problems ahead of time."

n The Community Alternative Learning Center received $200 for gift cards for their positive-behavior program.

n Dot VanDyke, a teacher at Neil Armstrong Middle School, received $300 for choir music. "We have not been able to purchase any choir music in over four years," VanDyke said. "I have to have music that will accommodate all voice types, all skill levels, all possible styles, and music that will lead to stronger, more competent singing. It is impossible for a program to show consistent growth when they perform the same songs over and over, so I tried to purchase several new titles each year and did so until the budgets were cut so drastically."

n Cheryl Hall, a Cornelius Elementary School teacher, received $50 for reading timers. Hall said she has been wanting to purchase timers for several years to help students read faster in a fun way. Many of her students have few books at home, she said, so reading fluency can be a challenge.

n Estella Weigand, an Echo Shaw Elementary School teacher, received $300 to purchase non-fiction books.

A large part of the foundation's funding comes from its annual "Christmas with the Trail Band" concert. This year, Smith said, they’re going to try to put together more programs and events, and reach out to more people to help raise enough funds to come closer to filling the grant money demand.

Those interested in donating can contact Smith at 503-357-6171 x 4550 or at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Visit for more information.

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