Note: This story was originally published on the Chamberlin Family Foundation website. It has been modified to reflect a continuing initiative supported by the Chamberlin Education Foundation.
The Chamberlin Education Foundation will award a record number of individual grants directly to West Contra Costa public school teachers this Spring.
The foundation’s Gratitude Grants program, which provides individual grants of up to $250 to full-time K-12 educators in West Contra Costa public schools, will distribute funds totaling over $159,000 directly to 646 teachers across West County.
“We deeply value the effort that teachers put into their work,” said foundation co-founder Susan Chamberlin. “We are excited to provide Gratitude Grants to so many of them this year.”
Now in its fifth year, the 2019 Gratitude Grants program awarded 194 more grants than it did the prior year, representing a 43% increase. Teachers from almost every public school in West Contra Costa applied, including 298 elementary school teachers, 109 middle school teachers, 129 high school teachers, 92 teachers at K-8 schools, and 18 teachers from alternative schools.
CEF Gratitude Grants manager Silvana Valle attributes the increase in applicants to additional word-of-mouth promotion among teachers themselves (55% of new applicants report hearing about Gratitude Grants from a colleague), as well as a streamlined application process that used a simple online form for the first time.
“We wanted to reach as many teachers as we could with the invitation to apply,” Valle said. “We know how busy our teachers get, and we wanted to make it as easy as we could for them to participate.”
Gratitude Grant applicants this year requested funds to purchase class sets of novels, AP Calculus lessons, arts and STEAM integration tools, math manipulatives, ELL support materials, and much more. Some grantees sought to attend professional development workshops to grow their effectiveness in their classroom.
In part, the CEF team created Gratitude Grants with awareness that teachers frequently spend their own money to supplement the learning materials they use in their classrooms. A recent US Department of Education study reports that, on average, public school teachers spend nearly $500 per year of their own money on additional materials and tools for their students.
“Teachers can always use additional classroom supplies and resources,” Valle said. “We’re excited to be able to extend small grants directly to teachers so they can enrich their classrooms in ways that benefit their students’ learning.”
Since 2015, CEF Gratitude Grants have provided funds for supplies and resources (e.g. books, materials, and software) or professional development. To date, CEF has contributed over $460,000 directly to West Contra Costa teachers though its Gratitude Grants initiative.
“We created Gratitude Grants because we know that teachers are the most important factor in the quality of a student’s education,” said Minnie Setty, the foundation’s Acting Executive Director.
“We appreciate that teachers regularly go the extra mile for the kids in their classrooms, and this is one way we show our gratitude for their incredible effort,” Setty said.
Next year’s Gratitude Grants applications will be available in early 2020.