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Pyramid Awards fund innovative teaching ideas

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By Tracy Harris

Twenty-one Oldham County School teachers are being recognized for innovative and engaging ideas during the 2011 Pyramid Awards.

The awards are given by the Oldham County Educational Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises funds to bridge the gaps in classroom funding.

Teachers submit proposals and detailed budgets for the award. Proposals are read by at least three community or OCEF members and scored on a 20-point scale. Proposals must receive a 17 or better to receive funding.

Gayle Johnson, assistant superintendent and OCEF board member, said he tells scorers to ask themselves if their child would benefit from a proposal when awarding points.

This year, 21 teachers at 12 different schools will receive funding for a variety of projects, although literacy and technology are common themes.

Johnson said with the emphasis on innovation, technology is a natural choice for projects.

Teachers can apply for grants up to $1,000, but proposals this year asked for even as little as $300.

OCEF is awarding nearly $20,000 in Pyramid Awards this year, and while only one teacher can be named the award recipient, there are many collaborative efforts.

Winning teachers are recognized at a faculty meeting at their school, giving an opportunity for them to share their project idea with their peers, Johnson said.

The Pyramid Awards began in 1994, with 380 teachers receiving more than $210,000. 

The awards are one of four major OCEF initiatives this year — others include providing support to the Oldham County Schools Arts Center, the gifted and talent programs and preschool programs.

The OCEF relies on donations from foundations, corporations and individuals to fund its mission. 

For information visit www.ocef.info.

Pyramid Award recipients

Jennifer Dolan and Jenny Graff, Buckner Elementary: “Hook Up With A Good Nook Book” project to pair fourth and fifth graders struggling with reading with Nook e-readers loaded with appropriate reading level books. Dolan and Graff hope students will advance at least one reading level by the end of the school year.

Jennifer Hull, Camden Station Elementary, and Stephanie Vernak, Goshen Elementary: “The Oldham Octopi” project to provide fourth and fifth grade students with percussion instruments to create an ensemble. Students will learn cooperation, leadership and responsibility skills.

Cindy Smith, Goshen Elementary: “Book Buzz” project to create multimedia book reviews on iPads and published online for other students to view.

David Wallace, Kari Kittleson, Ruther Parrott, Ryan Rembold and Jamie Wilson, Goshen Elementary: “Taste of Fifth Grade” project to create and sell a cookbook that will emphasize students use of fractions and decimals. Proceeds will be donated to charity.

Jennifer Hallas, Harmony Elementary: “Math in Motion” project to use iPads to further learning mathematics in students from first through fourth grade.

Allison Hafner, Harmony Elementary: “iStudy” project to use iPods for academic applications for students with learning and behavior disabilities in the third through fifth grades. 

Karen Clark, Harmony Elementary: “Gateway to Reading” project to make available more graphic novels for students in kindergarten through fifth grades, which are popular amongst those ages and will encourage reading.

Beverly Dallaire, Kenwood Station Elementary: The “It’s Podcastic!” project will provide iPods and software so students can make original podcasts based on the theme and content of a work of fiction.

Whitney Cox, Kenwood Station Elementary: “Podcasting: The speaking tool of the future” project will provide fifth grade students with digital voice recording tools that will allow them to improve their speaking and listening skills.

Lauri Pytko, Kenwood Station Elementary: “Authentic Literature for Life-Long Readers” project to provide first- and second-grade students with six copies of 41 different books specifically designed to support strategic thinking.

Rebecca Broughton, La Grange Elementary: “Fractions, Fractions Everywhere” project to incorporate technology into math instruction using iPads and iPods to enhance fraction comprehension in third- and fourth-grade special education students.

Susan Vialpando, Locust Grove Elementary: “Peer Coaching” project to encourage literacy by forming peer groups of students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Older students will help younger students with a range of reading skills and provide social interaction between groups.

Beth Wallingford and Dennis Mangum, East Oldham Middle: “Where Did That Energy Go” project to help seventh graders better understand energy transfer through research-based strategies.

Megan Kelley, East Oldham Middle: “iCan” project to provide iPads to struggling students to help them practice individualized, basic skills such as math and vocabulary.

Winn Wheeler, South Oldham Middle: “Promoting Avid Reading in Struggling Readers” project to provide e-Readers to students to promote literacy.

Chad Padgett, North Oldham High: “Modeling with Periodic Functions” project to provide scientific calculators to precalculus students to enable them to better understand trigonometric functions.

Leah Berry, North Oldham High: “Skype to Read and Write Successfully” project to enable high school students to teach elementary students via web video conferencing. 

Gabriel Kessler, Oldham County High: “Vernier Video Physics” project to help physics students analyze motion by using iPads equipped with “Vernier Video Physics” software to film real-life projects.

Adam Watson, South Oldham High: “iMovie, weReview” project to make video summaries of major information from texts used in the Advanced Placement Literature exam.

Karen Ford and Tammy Redecker, South Oldham High: “Zoom Algebra” project to provide calculators and software to solve geometric and algebraic problems to further their understanding of concept and communicate critical thinking skills.

Kate Nitzken, South Oldham High: “Drawing Unlimited” project for drama students to create sets, costumes and sketchbooks for plays using iPad software.