By Emily Ammann
Renee Spanos, a third grade teacher in the Elwood school district, was recently awarded a leadership grant for her efforts to empower her fellow educators.
Spanos has been in education for 16 years, and currently teaches at James H. Boyd Intermediate School in Elwood. She said she became aware of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development’s Teacher Impact Grant while working as an administrative intern, and decided to come up with a program for her district.
“The process [of applying for the grant] was exciting,” she said. To put her application together, Spanos formed “a small team to bounce ideas off of,” at the suggestion of Boyd’s principal, Dr. Denise Toscano. She and her colleagues did a great deal of research on materials, professional development and best practices.
Out of 580 total applicants nationwide, Spanos was one of 17 teachers to be awarded the stipend. The grant she submitted, “Teaching STEM Through Professional Learning Communities,” will help enhance the K-5 STEM program in Elwood.
Some 950 students at both Harley Avenue Primary School and Boyd Intermediate will be affected by Spanos’ program. Implementing the new supplies and lessons in the science curriculum, she said, “will spark excitement and inquiry” in the students, and “add such cutting edge and innovative resources” to their classrooms.
Teachers will become part of collaborative Professional Learning Communities.
According to ASCD, these groups will “[provide] teachers with rich professional development” regarding the New York State Science Learning Standards. They will also help educators format new curriculum maps, provide a uniform lesson structure for all students and establish STEM-based inquiry labs and experiments.
The new STEM curriculum, Spanos said, is “vital to the future of our students, to the future of our district, and the future of our country.” It will “forever impact” the students and teachers it’s meant to serve, she continued.
The grant is to be disbursed this month, allowing her project to be executed during the upcoming school year