SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — Eighteen Aspire grants, created by the Springfield-Wittenberg Teacher Institute (SWTI), were awarded to teachers from Springfield and Clark County schools last month.
Teachers representing 15 schools from five systems were honored with an Aspire grant, which promotes innovative teaching and learning projects. The teachers were recognized for their outstanding work in the education community.
Robert Welker, professor of education and the SWTI director, said the grant is meant to be a personal award that brings a public face to the work teachers do in private.
“Most teachers do their work without recognition,” Welker said. “There is public attention to education but not for teachers.”
Established earlier this year, the Aspire grant program acknowledges teachers for their work in and out of the classroom. The grant recognizes teachers who help students make contributions to the community and provide a holistic education, referring to caring of spiritual and social needs.
The award is part of the institute’s teaching associates program, which focuses on improving the education community and promotes teaching leadership. Created four years ago, the program consists of 20 teaching associates who are master teachers selected to help build professional development opportunities for local teachers.
“The [teaching associates] were interested in creating a culture of support for good teaching,” Welker said. “The idea was to promote a way of thinking about education that is not test-based.”
Although there is no formal application process, local teachers may submit proposals for other teachers whom they believe are inspiring, innovative and teach with a student-centered focus.
Teachers nominated are reviewed by the teaching associates within the institute. Welker noted there is considerable latitude in how the grant is spent, but teachers should use the grant in a way that is beneficial to the students. He said recipients of the award may use it for educational materials, classroom supplies or field trips to support their classroom and/or curriculum.
Funding for the grant is provided by the Turner Foundation as well as from private donations. The average award is $250 with a maximum of 21 awards per year.
This year’s recipients include: Karen Berkhofer, Miami View Elementary; Don Bonnell, Northridge Middle School; Debbie Churchward, Simon Kenton Elementary; John Coccaro, North High School; Lori Fenwick, Perrin Woods Elementary; Judy Fletcher, North High School; Stacey Freer, Roosevelt Middle School; Joetta Garberich, North High School; Michelle Heims, South Vienna Middle School; Debbie Kelly, Northeastern High School; Debbie Maurer, Greenon High School; Gina Papadakis, Elmwood Alternative Center; Georgia Poulos, Clark Middle School; Kelly Sallot, Shawnee High School; Jared Shore, Greenon Local; Lotus Smith, Lagonda Elementary; Barbara Walker, Lincoln/Simon Kenton; and Larry Yowler, Hustead Elementary.
Of this year’s recipients, two are Wittenberg graduates. Georgia Poulos, class of 1979, earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics and reading. For the past 26 years, she has taught math at Clark Middle School and has served as the school’s basic skills specialist.
Stacey Freer, class of 1997, received her bachelor’s in education and now teaches at Roosevelt Middle School. She helps with various organizations in the school, serving as the Spelling Bee coordinator, Student Council adviser, a member of the Language Arts Leadership team and the girl’s track coach.
— Sarah Gearhart, Student Assistant