(ROCKWALL, TX — May 9, 2019) Since its establishment in 2003, the Rockwall Education Foundation has paved the way for area educators to provide innovative, out-of-the-box approaches to learning.
The Foundation, a nonprofit organization which operates independently of Rockwall ISD, was first created to provide much-needed resources to the school district. How does it accomplish this? Through private grants, community involvement, effective programs, and of course, tremendous support from the community. Read on to learn more about how the Foundation has made a positive impact in the lives of students and teachers across the district.
Innovative Teaching Grants
One of the main missions of the Foundation is to provide educators with the tools they need to foster creative methods of teaching that exceed the core principles outlined in classroom curriculum. Each spring, the Foundation awards Innovative Teaching Grants to educators in campuses across the district. The grants have allowed teachers to engage students in their learning by funding projects such as the Pullen Elementary Outdoor Theatre that go beyond your typical classroom lessons, memorization and testing.
“We want to make the learning process more of an experience for students,” said Rockwall Education Foundation Executive Director Ashlei Neill. “Through these grants, we look for ways to provide teachers with what they need that will help the students learn in ways they wouldn’t be able to otherwise.”
The program continues to be a huge success for the Foundation, with a total of 313 grants equating to more than half a million dollars awarded to teachers in each campus of Rockwall ISD, including the Dr. Gene Burton College & Career Academy.
I Am the Foundation
Every month during the school year, you might notice area educators sporting Education Foundation spirit wear. In 2011, the Foundation launched its annual employee campaign called I Am the Foundation, inviting educators and administrators from around the district to each contribute $5 per month to the Foundation. In return, they receive an “I Am the Foundation” t-shirt which they can wear with jeans on the first Wednesday of every month.
Neill said this is not only a fun incentive for them to take part in the program, but also highlights the idea that educators are the ones who truly make up the Foundation.
“As the community sees those shirts, we want that to then spark their interest in thinking, if the educators are supporting this, then we as parents, community members or business leaders should support it as well,” Neill said.
The Foundation recently completed Phase III of its Brickyard project – an area of personalized engraved bricks located across from the ticket booths at Wilkerson-Sanders Stadium. Funds generated from the project go directly towards grants for Rockwall ISD students and help provide financial support for the district’s new teachers.
“Our long-term vision is to have that entire grass area filled up with blocks of 100 bricks from each of the project’s phases,” Neill said.
The project invites community members to support the Foundation by purchasing an engraved brick, with three options to choose from: a text-only 4×8 brick at $100, a 4×8 brick with text and a logo of your choice at $150, and 12×12 brick with 10 lines of text (20 letters and spaces, including punctuation, per line) and up to four logos of your choice for $500.
Principal for a Day
With this program, the Foundation invites community leaders to shadow a principal at a Rockwall ISD campus for half a day. The experience gives individuals in the private sector an inside look at how campuses operate on a daily basis, so that they can witness firsthand the strengths and challenges facing each school throughout the district. Following their experience at the schools, participants gather together with Education Foundation Board Members and district leaders for lunch and a Q&A session with the superintendent to share what they learned.
The program has helped many business and community leaders form ongoing partnerships with the district.
“So many of those who were guest principals really connected with the district and have become more involved with the campus or more involved with the Foundation. At the end of it all, they walk away as advocates for the Foundation and the district because they are better educated through their firsthand experience,” Neill said.
Aside from its successful array of programs, the Foundation also holds several exciting fundraiser events throughout the year to help support its mission. On Friday, May 10, the Foundation will hold its 3rd Annual Bowling Classic presented by Park Place Motorcars from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Shenaniganz Rockwall.
The community is invited to get a team together and show off their bowling skills as they compete for the coveted title of 2019 Grand Champion. Awards will also be given for “Most Creative Team Name” (sponsored by Lacy Deckard Realtor), “Most Stylish Alley Attire” and “Most Spirited Team”.
Folks can register as a team of six or individually. Team registration is $300 and individual is $60. The registration fee includes food, a drink ticket, bowling shoes and an event backpack.
Folks can also have a chance to win some fantastic items at the silent auction, such as an evening gown crafted by students of the College & Career Academy Fashion and Design class, a Homecoming mum making class, or the chance to take part in the Foundation’s Principal for a Day program.
The event looks to be the biggest yet for the Foundation, with 23 teams already registered at the time of this writing. Check out the event’s Facebook page to register.
Trailblazer Benefit & Bonfire
As a way to recognize all the people who have made a difference in the Foundation and in the school district, the Foundation began a new tradition last year in the Trailblazer Benefit & Bonfire event. The Foundation invited the community and Rockwall ISD alumni to celebrate its 15-year anniversary with the inaugural event on Nov. 3 which included a barbecue dinner, a silent auction, live music and an old-school bonfire at Summerfield at Tate Farms. Folks in attendance were also given the opportunity to help fund the Foundation’s Innovative Teaching Grants that were approved for that year.
During the event, the Foundation also recognized Ed Grand-Lienard with its first ever Trailblazer Award. The award recognizes a community member who has gone above and beyond in exemplifying the mission of the Foundation and supporting Rockwall ISD programs, educators and students.
The Foundation will host the second annual Trailblazer Benefit & Bonfire in the fall this year.
To learn more about the Education Foundation, visit rockwallisd.com/edfoundation.
By Austin Wells, Blue Ribbon News. Courtesy photos.
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