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.

  • Dressed for a Fiesta!

    Dressed for a Fiesta!

    Winnona Park Spanish teacher Seňora Ortiz wanted to create a cultural “fiesta” at which her second grade students could celebrate all that they had learned about the Mexican culture and perform for their parents. The students learned traditional Mexican songs and dances, but they didn’t have any traditional costumes for their final performance. A DEF grant helped purchase sombreros for the boys and brightly colored fabric to make festive skirts for the girls. The costumes will now be available for use by the Spanish department for future celebrations.

  • Diversity in Books

    Diversity in Books

    The Intervention team at Clairemont Elementary felt that their existing guided-reading library of leveled books failed to adequately reflect the rich diversity of the school’s population. As a means of engaging their students as well as reinforcing the school’s commitment to the Expeditionary Learning design principles of Diversity and Inclusion, the team purchased book sets from Song Lake Books, a multicultural children’s book publisher, with help from a DEF grant. The new books create more varied reading experiences for the students through the diverse cultures and characters represented, and serve as a tangible way in which the school can celebrate its diversity. Intervention teacher Christie Manasso said, “These books help our students to grow into empathetic, empowered and literate learners, no matter what their background, and takes us another step towards equality and opportunity for all of our students.”

  • Posters for Change

    Posters for Change

    As a part of the Culture for Caring Symposium, sixth graders created digital artwork to promote community awareness on a local or global issue about which they were passionate. Students made full-sized posters using Sketches, a professional art application that helped them learn about the principles of design. Their vibrant, eye-catching art was then transformed into posters using a Canon imageProGraph large-format printer, which was purchased through a DEF grant and will be used for lots of innovative art projects in the years to come.

  • Everyone Can Debate

    Everyone Can Debate

    Thanks to a DEF teacher innovation grant, students in Mr. Fernandez’ 10th grade A.P. U.S. History (APUSH) classes at DHS have been using video cameras to record graded discussions. As part of the curriculum, APUSH students engage in graded discussions in large groups, while being observed by the teacher. The use of video cameras now allow several small groups to have discussions simultaneously. The result has been more equitable participation in discussions, greater student independence, and more contributions from students who are less vocal than others.

  • Second Grade Bloggers

    Second Grade Bloggers

    Oakhurst students in Ms. Whelchel’s second grade class use two classroom iPads to write blogs and communicate with their parents about what they are learning. Using an app called SeeSaw, students can write, draw pictures, take photos of their school projects and share them with their parents. The kids love using the technology to practice their writing, and the parents love to receive updates directly from their students.

  • Minute to Win It Skills

    Minute to Win It Skills

    As a means of providing an inclusive activity for all students, Glennwood Elementary P.E. teacher Chester Everett was awarded a grant for speed stacking cup sets. With them, he created several age-appropriate activities that encourage teamwork and friendly competition among the students, while helping them develop hand-eye coordination, focus and concentration.

  • Partnership for Career Achievement

    Partnership for Career Achievement

    This new mentoring program is guiding 12 seniors to vocational/trade training and job prospects. Each student is paired with a community advocate who will help the student navigate through senior year and subsequent training programs for solid job prospects. Students who successfully complete the program are eligible for scholarship awards to cover the costs of their chosen training programs.

  • 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.