Makeover grants create better learning environment for students

Kennedy Elementary teachers (left to right) Aric Spotts, Laura Brown and Marcy Huber received grants from Anne Engels of Engels/Meemic Insurance Agency of Cadillac and Ludington totally $750 for Classroom Makeovers to purchase items that will assist in learning.

Kennedy Elementary teachers (left to right) Aric Spotts, Laura Brown and Marcy Huber received grants from Anne Engels of Engels/Meemic Insurance Agency of Cadillac and Ludington totally $750 for Classroom Makeovers to purchase items that will assist in learning.

MANISTEE — Several Manistee teachers recently received grants for “classroom makeovers.”

Engels/Meemic Insurance Agency of Cadillac and Ludington provided funds allowing Manistee Area Public School teachers to purchase items they otherwise could not afford.

“We started this last year and our agency does it for our school districts in our area,” said Anne Engels. “We started it last year because we sell Meemic Insurance and they have a nonprofit side of it that allows grants and free workshops that is exclusively for teachers.”

Engels said the Meemic Foundation that presents the grants gets funds through the insurance side which is how they are funded. Last year they quadrupled the amount of money they are giving back to schools.

“We wanted to get on board with that and give back to the teachers, so our agency started doing a classroom makeover award,” she said. “Last year we had a great turnout and so we did it again this year and we actually gave out $2,700 to area schools. Some were $300 and some were $150.”

Engels said it is very easy to apply for a grant. All the teachers have to do is go to the Engels/Meemic website and fill out a form explaining the need for their classroom.

“We work with the school principals and choose a couple winners per school,” she said. “It ranges from chairs to school books and and everything else. It’s usually something they would love to do, but just can’t afford it. A lot of the grants that are out there are usually for something specific or is cumbersome to apply for it. Our grant program is super simple and there isn’t a lot of restrictions.”

Engels said teachers have told her that without this grant program the opportunity to purchase items would either be non-existent or coming out of their own pocket.

Kennedy Elementary School teachers Laura  Brown, Marcy Huber and Aric Spotts all were awarded grants for a variety of purchases.

Brown teaches fourth grade was looking to modernize the seating in her classroom to a 21st century learning environment. She was looking for was to purchase bean bags, stools, low tables, high tables, therapy balls and small rugs.

“Flexible seating allows students choice in the classroom,” she said. “Students can choose the most comfortable spot for them to learn and work on their own or with others. Research shows that students having a choice in their learning increases their levels of engagement and lowers the coincidences of behaviors becoming barriers to learning.”

Brown said there are other advantages to the new seating options.

“Secondly, flexible seating allows for students with different learning styles to be successful,” she said. “Some students learn best at a traditional desk or at a table, while others need the sensory stimulation  and movement of a therapy ball or wiggle seat to help them focus. Other students need a quiet space to work on their own, while some learn best sitting in a group.”

Huber’s classroom is located in the middle section of the second floor and doesn’t contain any windows. Air circulation is poor and the room is always stuffy, which doesn’t make for a good learning environment. So Huber made a request to purchase fans.

One of the items purchased to benefit Kennedy Elementary School's Laura Brown's class with the Engels/Meemic Insurance grant funds were flexible seating options for the students.

One of the items purchased to benefit Kennedy Elementary School’s Laura Brown’s class with the Engels/Meemic Insurance grant funds were flexible seating options for the students.

“As soon as the weather outside turns nice, my room gets stuffy and hot,” she said. “I have already purchased one very nice fan with the intent on getting one or two more. The students have been thanking me, as the the warm weather we have been having in the past few weeks has made the room very hot.”

Huber said the purchase wouldn’t have been possible without the grants.

“I would like to thank the Engels Insurance Agency for awarding me this grant and helping my students be comfortable in our room,” she said. “It has made a huge difference already.”

Fifth grade teacher Spotts also was awarded a grant for science supplies for STEM (science, technology, engineering and math.

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Posted by Ken Grabowski

Ken is News Advocate’s education reporter. He coordinates coverage for all Manistee County schools and West Shore Community College. He can be reached by phone at (231) 398-3125 or by email at kgrabowski@pioneergroup.com.

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