By Kim Klein
Fourteen Vicksburg teachers are recipients of Bardeen Grants this year. The purpose of the grant is to fund individual research and personal/professional development activities that will result in new teaching and learning practices. The grant can also be used to purchase materials necessary for implementation of creative and innovative teaching and learning practices outside of the scope of normal curriculum materials, supplies or equipment supplied by the district. Grant awards are generally limited to $1,000 for each project request, although exceptions are considered based upon the project proposal and funding availability.
Pat Wilson-O’Leary, retired VCS Instructional Specialist, trustee and chairperson for the Bardeen Committee, says, “The teachers who take the time to write the grants are motivated to try new things or try current practices differently. The grants supply what a present day, normal school budget cannot supply. To reach the maximum benefit, all Bardeen Grant recipients have to transfer their knowledge and skills not only to their students, but to their colleagues. Teaching and learning are now community affairs. Without interdependent thinking and interdependently learning, schools cannot grow with the times.”
The Bardeen Teacher Incentive Grant was created in 1986 as a partnership between the Vicksburg Foundation, providing the money, and the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation VCSF, to distribute the money.
At that time, the Vicksburg Foundation made grant funding available in the amount of $7,500 each year. Since then, the amount has been increased to $10,000 per year. The VCSF also has an endowment established with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation that generated an extra $3,100 for this year’s grant program. That’s an additional $13,000 for the 2014 program.
The grants acknowledge the contributions of Maxwell Bardeen, the longtime general manager of Vicksburg’s Lee Paper Company, one of the founders of the Vicksburg Foundation and the Western Michigan University Paper Science & Engineering Department.
He was a champion of the Vicksburg Community Schools and Vicksburg teachers. In 1994, when Bardeen passed away, both the VCSF and the Vicksburg Foundation voted to expand their support of the Teacher Incentive Grant Program. Acknowledging Maxwell and his family as founders of the program, the group changed the grants’ name to the Bardeen Teacher Incentive Grant Program.
“Teachers today are challenged to teach concepts and skills as well as provide unbelievable amounts of information in creative, interesting and challenging ways”, says Wilson-O’Leary. “They must model technological skills and teach students to do the same. Great teachers cannot teach the same ways they did five or ten years ago. They must continually grow and change as the world changes. We are fortunate to have such teachers in Vicksburg.”
Thanks to the Vicksburg Foundation and the VCSF, some dreams do come true for Vicksburg’s teachers.