January 12, 2023

CCRCF Funds Preschool to High School Classrooms through Rotary Teacher Grants

Rotary 2022

In December 2022 the Culver City Rotary Community Foundation (CCRCF), in partnership with the Culver City Education Foundation (CCEF), awarded Teacher Grants totaling $20,000 for a wide range of classroom projects. On December 14, awardees attended a festive reception at the Culver City Rotary Plaza, where CCRCF President Carmela Raack, CCRCF Vocational Chair Jodie Fratantuno, and CCEF Executive Director Wendy Hamill distributed award checks and in-person congratulations. CCUSD educators, whose students range from preschoolers to high school seniors, submitted grant requests to fund classroom tools and materials, books, supplemental curriculum materials, field trips, technology accessories, and the means to ensure safe and organized indoor and outdoor learning spaces.

“CCEF is so pleased to partner with the Culver City Rotary Community Foundation to bring these resources into CCUSD classrooms, and to support our teachers’ innovative projects,” says Wendy Hamill.

The need for diverse books at appropriate reading levels in English, Spanish, and Japanese was a common request from teachers across many schools for their general education, special education and language immersion classrooms. Building a library of diverse books and learning materials is also a priority for the OCD After-Care Program at Farragut. After-care programs are often “overlooked,” by funding sources, “even though these are the same students that go to our elementary school,” explains Rotary Teacher Grant awardee Aretha Tillett.

Teachers at various campuses received funding for supplemental learning curriculums for social studies, social emotional learning, and early math and literacy at various campuses. Farragut second grade teacher Minyoung Phai explains, “Specifically for my students with below-grade-level reading skills who are also foster youth, homeless, English language learners, and students of color, strong, rigorous, and consistent phonics instruction resources will have a truly positive and meaningful impact on these students’ futures.”

Hands-on math learning materials connect mathematics to real-world contexts, from a “Learning with Numbers” program funded for Cyndi Flowers’ Special Education OCD Preschool classroom, to 150 wipe boards that enable an engaging “Thinking Classroom” approach for sixth graders at CCMS. Mason Sustayta hopes that his fifth grade students at El Rincon will envision themselves as mathematicians through posters featuring mathematicians of different cultures and backgrounds, and Keely Dowdall plans to convert her third grade classroom at Farragut into a pizza shop to enable fun, interactive investigations of fractions.

Many proposals demonstrate how teachers across the district understand the need to integrate elements of fun into learning. “Play can be rigorous, promote a growth mindset, can be connected to teaching points, and can also relate to STEAM careers that students can see themselves doing someday,” explains El Rincon Kindergarten teacher Jennifer Zapata. Adds her colleague Katherine Gray, “Dramatic play is important for Kindergarten-aged students because it offers them opportunities to express themselves and make meaningful connections with their peers. It also helps students practice essential social skills like taking turns, problem solving, self-regulation, and cooperation.”

“The Culver City Rotary Community Foundation is thrilled to support the important work our teachers do in the classroom, which in the long-term benefits not only the 7,000+ students of CCUSD, but also our broader Culver City community,” says CCRCF’s Jodie Fratantuno. Eileen Pottinger, the Art & Innovation Lab Teacher at Farragut shares, “My favorite thing about the Rotary Teacher Grant is feeling supported by the community. Knowing that the people making these decisions are all local and have a good understanding of what CCUSD does helps me feel that my work is appreciated in a very concrete, personal way. This grant really makes me feel empowered as a teacher to do what is right for my students.”