In memory of a treasured, longtime Rotarian, the Rotary Club of San Marino recently awarded more than $10,000 in grants to innovative teachers at San Marino-area schools.
The William G. ‘Bill’ Steele, Jr. Mini-Grants were presented to individual teachers from Carver Elementary School, Huntington Middle School, San Marino High School, Clairbourn School, Southwestern Academy and Sts. Felicitas & Perpetua School on Friday, Oct. 28 in the Crowell Public Library’s Barth Community Room.
Rotarians Calvin Lo and Mary Johnson co-chaired the mini-grants program this year.
“This is a wonderful program that Rotary Club is sponsoring,” Lo said.
“This year we did something a little bit different,” San Marino Rotary Club President Gilda Moshir said. “We didn’t let you know who the winners are.”
In previous years, the grant recipients were told they received the grant prior to the ceremony. Moshir said she hopes that those who applied and didn’t receive a grant aren’t deterred from applying in the future.
“We are so proud to be serving the community,” she said. “We’ve had this mini-grant now since 1998 and it’s what we give back to the community, to the teachers in the classrooms.”
The projects for the grants of as much as $500 apiece were to “encourage vision and creativity in the classroom.” There were 36 applicants this year.
Lo went over some of the guidelines that the William G. ‘Bill’ Steele Mini-Grant Committee were looking for, such as: “promoting a passion and curiosity for learning,” “presenting new challenges to encourage student creativity” and “enriching the classroom experience with innovation.”
Last year’s mini-grant Chair Fang Fang Ho said committee members rely on teachers and principals to work hand-in-hand with Rotary to make the program successful.
The grant money broke down to: $4,311 to Carver Elementary, $315 to Clairbourn School, $1,450 to San Marino High School, $1,159 to Southwestern Academy and $2,259 to Sts. Felicitas & Perpetua School.
Several of the teachers explained their projects.
“I applied for a program called Hands-on Equations,” Clairbourn School teacher Kimberlee Maltbie said. “I found it through the National Council of Math Teachers. What it does is it allows younger students to have time with algebraic equations without using variables. They actually have scales and different things that represent the numbers to balance the scale all through manipulatives.”
HMS teacher Rob Miller will use the grant funds for an interpretive speech mirror.
“In my speech program, the performers need a mirror when they’re rehearsing,” he said, also announcing that HMS will be hosting a TED Talk on March 17, 2017.
SMHS teacher Jamie Linton, who is the facilitator of the school’s Girls Who Code Club, requested funding for hardware for the club that encourages female interest in coding.
Sts. Felicitas & Perpetua teacher Jayne MacLellan talked about the LittleBits machine she will use the grant money to purchase.
“It’s a small machine that each group can re-build differently and make an art project out of it,” she said.
Lo said the club wouldn’t be presenting the mini-grants if it weren’t for Rotarian Andy Barth, who funded the majority of the mini-grant program.
He told the story of how the mini-grant program began. Barth, who served on the San Marino School Board for eight years beginning in 1997, asked then-San Marino Unified School District Superintendent Jack Rose if there was something that could be done to directly improve the teaching environment for the educators. He said Rose suggested donating money toward a mini-grant program to inspire teachers to think creatively, make up for the lack of funding from the state and to directly benefit the children in the community.
“I’d been fortunate and lucky enough professionally that at one point in time, I was able to set it up so this program is now endowed,” Barth said. “We never have to worry about mini-grants going away. Mini-grants will be here long into the future. As long as teachers keep coming up with great ideas on how to teach, we’ll have mini-grants to give to teachers.”
He said the Rotary Club of San Marino was the perfect organization to administer the grants, because of the connection it has with the community and the schools.
Barth added, “We’ve always had a great representation from our school board and from our administrators within Rotary.”
He also spoke about why the mini-grant program was named after Steele.
“If you looked in the dictionary under the words ‘wonderful man,’ you’d find ‘Bill Steele,’” he said. “He always had a great idea and the beneficiary of so many of those great ideas was our schools. Whenever we needed a distinguished member of the community to be a sponsor on our bond issues, our parcel tax or anything like that to help our schools, you could call Bill and he wouldn’t even ask about it. He’d say, ‘If you’re asking me and if it’s good for the schools, I’ll do it.’”
Barth said there was no better way to pay tribute to Steele’s memory and perpetuity than the mini-grant program that will go on forever.
Lo thanked his committee members who were Ho, Scott Kwong, Isaac Hung, Joseph Chang, Rob Feidler, Greg Johansing, Shawn Chou, Dan Maljanian and Fary Yassamy.