How Teachers Use WTEF & DonorsChoose to Bring the Curriculum to Life

When Jared Hancock looks at his students, he sees children with roots in many parts of the world. The school where he teaches music, Westlake Elementary, has a student population as diverse as any in the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township.

“My students love playing a variety of instruments, and regularly ask to try new types of instruments,” said Mr. Hancock.

To help his students become more highly engaged in world music, Mr. Hancock came up with a proposal he called “Wonderful World Drumming.” He submitted a grant by that name to the Wayne Township Education Foundation, and received funding for 22 hand drums. “I knew that world drumming could help our student musicians learn a variety of music in a format that celebrates their collectivist cultural backgrounds,” Mr. Hancock said.

The new instruments have made a huge impact on his students.

“It would be difficult to overstate the excitement our kids expressed when they first walked into the music room and saw a drum circle set up,” said Mr. Hancock. “As we progressed through various learning sequences and games, student engagement was electric. After announcing that drum circles would be part of our after-school music club, we were overwhelmed with such an unprecedented response that we had to begin turning students away.”

As his students’ excitement about their new instruments grew, so did their musicianship. “One hundred percent of the students who participated said they now understand more about how percussion relates to Latin and African history and culture,” Mr. Hancock said.

Mr. Hancock is one of many teachers who have received grants from the Wayne Township Education Foundation. He has also received funding for various projects through the crowd-funding platform DonorsChoose.

For the past several years, WTEF has played an important role in helping DonorsChoose maximize the grant dollars available for teachers in MSD Wayne. In fact, WTEF provided $20,000 to support 125 DonorsChoose projects for MSD Wayne teachers at the beginning of the 2022-23 school year.

“I’m thrilled that we were able to help fund so many DonorsChoose projects at the start of the school year,” said WTEF Board President Nina Brahm. “This will give teachers a real boost.”

“While funds last and if criteria are met, a teacher may receive half funding from WTEF for up to two DonorsChoose grants per school year,” said Lisa Baize, WTEF’s executive director. “Our support can be a real difference maker for teachers applying for DonorsChoose grants.”

Liz Sommer, second grade teacher at McClelland Elementary, is looking forward to using the DonorsChoose grant she just received, which was half-funded by WTEF. It will enable her to purchase nearly $600 in books that reflect the diversity in her classroom, and throughout MSD Wayne.

“As a teacher, I put a lot of emphasis on my own classroom library,” Mrs. Sommer said. “As I reviewed my library over the summer, it struck me that nearly all of my books featured children that didn’t reflect the diversity I have in my classroom. I’ve used DonorsChoose in years past to help bolster my classroom materials and technologies, so I thought this would be a great way to help my students have access to books that they can both identify with as well as challenge their thinking.”

WTEF funded $296 of the $591 Mrs. Sommer will spend on the books. Without that additional help, Mrs. Sommer’s DonorsChoose project may have never become a reality. “The Wayne Township Education Foundation was instrumental in getting my project funded,” she said.

“Our board and donors love hearing the stories of how our partnership with DonorsChoose enables so much more to happen with grant funding,” said Lisa Baize. “We’re really looking forward to seeing the impact this partnership will continue to make.”

The Wayne Township Education Foundation (WTEF) provides community leadership to enrich, engage, and stimulate teaching and learning in the Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township. WTEF accomplishes this by supporting school programs and resources, while recognizing excellence among students and staff. To learn more about WTEF, call 317-988-7966, visit wtef.wayne.k12.in.us, or follow us on Facebook or Twitter @WayneTwpEdFound.