With the Special Education Grants Program, Teachers Know Best

As a funder of public education, we respect the expertise of teachers. Our immediate response teacher grants model is founded on the idea that teachers know best; through these grant programs, public school teachers send in one-page requests for grant funds to benefit their students as they see fit. We then disburse funds within 48 hours. This model respects teachers’ time and their ability to decide what is needed most for their students.

One of these teacher grant programs is the Special Education Resource Grant Program. Funded by the Thomas J. Long Foundation, this program provides $500 grants to special education practitioners throughout Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. These practitioners are dedicated advocates for their students with moderate to severe special needs, who are often underserved.

Payton Carter (center) with his B Period students at Oakland High.

Take Payton Carter, for example, who is a special education teacher at Oakland High School. He runs the B-Period, a daily after school study club that provides a quiet and supportive homework environment for special education students. When Payton took over the club seven years ago, he found that consistent attendance was an issue. He has since used PVF grant funding each year to purchase food as an attendance incentive. Attendance has subsequently skyrocketed.

Another special education teacher, Kate Dillon of Coliseum College Prep Academy, requested grant funding this past school year to purchase tools, a worm bin, and seeds for a gardening program that she runs for her students. She also used the grant funds to take her students on a field trip to a neighborhood community garden, which helped put their gardening into the context of the wider world. This kind of real world, hands-on experience is crucial for students with special needs who sometimes are not afforded the same types of opportunities as general education students.

Kate Dillon's students from Coliseum College Prep Academy on a local farm tour.

Other special education teachers have chosen to utilize these grants for classroom materials. For example, Aliyya Hatch of Castlemont Community Transformation School used a Special Education Grant to purchase sensory items such as wobble cushions and stress balls. These had a great impact in her classroom – students who frequently engaged in aggressive behavior used the cushions and balls to calm down and thus were able to decrease the amount of time they spent out of class due to behavioral challenges. It is clear that this extra support has a great impact on special education students by improving their behavior and learning potential.

Whether they are requesting grant funds for therapy materials, field trips, or professional development, Special Education Grant recipients display an inspiring level of dedication to their students. Through these easy-to-access grants, we aim to support teachers, who have both the ability and drive to create a more equitable learning experience for this underserved and deserving population.

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