Our Impact

Throughout the year, every student in Decatur’s schools is helped in some way by the Decatur Education Foundation. Many students are helped in significant ways — leveling the playing field by providing a home computer, for example, or receiving a college scholarship. View the 2016 DEF Impact Report here or the latest round of funded Teacher Grants here.

  • Cookies for a Cause

    Cookies for a Cause

    Drew Ann Tucciarone, Special Education teacher at Renfroe Middle School wanted to give the students in her Moderate Special Education class the opportunity to acquire some practical, real-life skills by establishing a student-run Cookie Gram business. Through a DEF grant, Ms. Tucciarone invested in an Otis Spunkmeyer Oven and the supplies to help them launch their business. The students have been developing basic domestic skills involved in preparing, baking, and packaging the cookies. Through weekly sales, the students have earned their first paychecks and are learning the basics of monetary exchange for goods. Ms. Tucciarone feels this project has been successful not only for providing her students with hands-on experiences, but it has also increased their involvement in the school community.

  • Hammering Home the Basics

    Hammering Home the Basics

    Pre-K classrooms at CHECLC now have a woodworking learning center that allows some of our youngest learners to work on a group building project that develops their hand-eye coordination while teaching them some real-life skills. At the end of the year, the classes will have built a classroom sign.

  • Motivated to Move

    Motivated to Move

    The students in Westchester Elementary’s self-contained, special needs classroom now have some adapted P.E. equipment that allows them to move their bodies, and experience success in developing their fine and gross motor skills. Their teacher LaTonya Henry felt the specialized equipment would motivate and engage her students so effectively that they wouldn’t even realize they were “working their bodies.” The students have also found that having equipment specific for their classroom is especially fun and collaborative when the third-grade students are invited to participate.

  • The Library Becomes a Battlefield

    The Library Becomes a Battlefield

    Renfroe Middle School Media Specialist Benjamin Lynch was awarded a teacher grant to purchase curriculum-aligned board games. These social games encourage friendly competition while reinforcing the concepts the students learn in class. Games that require role play and interaction provide alternative ways in which students can engage with the curriculum. Mr. Lynch said, “It is one thing to read about the American Revolution, but quite another to reenact a scenario from that time period and confront the challenges that each side faced.

  • Reading Can Be Fun

    Reading Can Be Fun

    Oakhurst Elementary kindergarten teacher Kendria Paden was awarded a DEF grant to expand upon her classroom’s Fundations phonics program to help her students improve their retention of letter acquisition and sound recognition. The additional materials encourage students to use more gross motor, fine motor and sensory skills during reading time, and get them excited to practice their handwriting.

  • Flexible Seating for Better Focus

    Flexible Seating for Better Focus

    Through our Teacher Innovation Grants, elementary school students across the district now have a variety of seating alternatives to meet their learning and sensory needs. Research has shown that providing flexible seating options in the classroom improves focus, reduces disruptive behavior and increases productivity. These Clairemont Elementary students are just three of many who can now choose how and where they complete their independent work.

  • Opportunity Partnership

    Opportunity Partnership

    In our ongoing quest to close the opportunity gap, we have established Opportunity Partnership, a new mentoring program that pairs third graders from the Decatur Housing Authority community with an adult mentor, who will serve as a matchmaker between the student and the enrichment opportunities that exist in our community, to explore their interests and develop useful life skills. Here third-grader Hamza meets his mentor, Mike Killeen, on the Opportunity Partnership match day. (Photo: Beate Sass)

  • Stride Ahead

    Stride Ahead

    Last summer, 36 students with special needs received grants for summer enrichment. Oakhurst student Katie O’Keefe attended a therapeutic riding program, Stride Ahead, which helped her strengthen core muscles, improve balance and develop her sensory awareness.

  • Which Came First?

    Which Came First?

    Pre-schoolers at College Heights get into a scientific mindset with their study of the life cycle of chickens. A DEF grant funded an incubator, fertilized eggs and supplies needed to care for the chicks for a short time after they hatched. Students were encouraged to ask questions about the project and then embarked as a class to find the answers.

  • Strings Petting Zoo

    Strings Petting Zoo

    Rarely do kids get a chance to touch and hold expensive stringed instruments, but that is exactly what they did at the instrument “petting zoo” sponsored by DEF. Fourth and fifth graders got the chance to play a violin, viola and cello with help from orchestra instructor Jessica Messere. Thanks to funds supplied to DEF from the BBQ and Blues Festival and the Decatur Beer Festival, these students will be able to join the orchestra group at F.AVE. That’s music to our ears!

    Nurto Abdikadir learns about the violin from Orchestra Instructor Jessica Messere.

  • Magical Library

    Magical Library

    Students at the 4/5 Academy love to read and share their literary finds with friends. The media staff at F.AVE thought that a little free library (LFL) would allow students to share their love of books with the whole community. With funds from a DEF grant, they designed and built a fabulous Hogwarts-themed library that will reside on the lawn of the school. We may just see books magically fly from the multi-roomed LFL and appear in students’ hands! The LFL honors Marty McKinnon, one of the school’s long-time, beloved media clerks who passed away last year.

    F.AVE student Jeremiah Madison poses with the school’s new Harry Potter-themed Little Free Library.

  • A Didgeri-what?

    A Didgeri-what?

    Sixth graders at Renfroe Middle School study Australia and its aboriginal cultures as part of their humanities curriculum. DEF supplied funds to bring Didgeridoo Revolution’s teaching artists to the school for an interactive workshop with the entire grade. The artists taught about the didgeridoo, its history and importance. After they demonstrated the methods for achieving the range of unique sounds produced by the didgeridoo, the students experimented on “modern” didgeridoos made from PVC pipes.
    Sixth grader Grayson Bauer plays a didgeridoo duet with instructor Tanya Gerard.

  • CTI in the Community

    CTI in the Community

    Career Technical Instruction is offered at Decatur High School to help students with special needs to develop life and career skills. Teresa Cross, CTI teacher, applied for a grant so that her students could attend the Georgia State Fair with students from the two other organizations of the Career Academy. Decatur High School encourages special education and regular education students to interact in academic and social settings. This grant provided that opportunity and also served to show CTI students how to use community resources and services effectively.
    CTI students and their DHS friends attended the Georgia State Fair together.

  • Career Edventure: Basic Air Academy

    Career Edventure: Basic Air Academy

    DHS student Jack Irwin-Weyant spent a week at EAA Basic Air Academy in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, where he had a comprehensive experience in aeronautics. His instruction included flight simulations as well as lectures about aerodynamics, mechanical engineering, aviation law and navigation.

    “I learned just how challenging it is to take off and land a plane. The simulation was so convincing that sometimes I forgot I wasn’t actually in a plane. While in the rocket design workshop, I enjoyed working with my hands and learning to use new tools. That experience has caused me to also consider a career in aerodynamic engineering.

    The highlight of my EAA experience was my plane ride in a Cessna 117. My flight instructor, Peaches, took off and landed but gave me the controls once we were airborne. I can now see how my physics class at Decatur High School applies to aviation. I plan to continue my aviation journey throughout this school year.”

  • Fueling Scientific Inquiry

    Fueling Scientific Inquiry

    Understanding the different types of energy is a key part of the eighth grade curriculum. David Taube, a science teacher at Renfroe Middle School, wanted his students to have hands-on learning about alternative fuels. DEF funds purchased a solar/hydrogen demonstration unit and three hydrogen fuel cell-powered cars for his classroom. With these units, students gain firsthand experience with clean, sustainable energy technologies.
    Lucas Schaffer and Sophia Taylor watch as their teacher David Taube uses a hydrogen fuel cell car to demonstrate how energy is being transformed from one type to another.

  • Reaping the Benefits

    Reaping the Benefits

    This summer 20 Decatur kids enjoyed a free reading camp as they helped 16 committed public school teachers practice proven reading methods during a training offered by REAP. REAP is a Decatur-based non-profit that improves reading proficiency in public school students through free teacher training and enrichment. DEF is proud to support REAP with grant funds that helped cover the cost for this summer experience – a win/win for teachers and for Decatur kids.