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Overpark Elementary School principal Lisa Love (center) congratulates two of her instructors who received Foundation for Excellence in Education grant awards Thursday, Heidi Taylor and Mindy Sloan.

Bob Bakken|DTT

Thursday was like “Christmas in November” for 133 teachers of schools in DeSoto County, including Northpoint Christian and Sacred Heart School, who applied and received grant money through the Foundation for Excellence in Education.

The program has been annually administered by the DeSoto County Economic Development Council (EDC), which since it started in 1989 has granted more than $1.19 million to support classroom programs in public and private schools.

Susan Fernandez of the Foundation and the EDC noted at the grant award event Thursday that donations this year allowed a total of $58,272.02 to be provided to teachers.

“This year is a little bit less but last year was a big year, an anniversary year for the program,” Fernandez said.

Teachers make applications for up to $500 in grant money. The applications are then reviewed by a committee and awards made based on the goals from the grant, the need and available money.

“This is a way for us to give back to them because they do so much for our children,” Fernandez said. “We recognize that if we put money into our children, it comes back to the workforce and we are all about training our future workforce.”

For the teachers who applied and received the funding, the excitement came in what the money will allow them to do in the classroom.

“I received a grant for leveled classroom books for science and math,” said Overpark Elementary School first-grade teacher Heidi Sloan. “We’re implementing more science this year and now we have these extra resources that I’m happy to have. We’re limited with resources so this is amazing.”

The grants also mean teachers will have to spend less money themselves to accomplish what they want done in class.

“We spend so much out of our pocket that it’s so nice to have help in getting the things that we really need in the class to make all of our kids successful,” said DeSoto Central Middle School instructor Corrie Pearson.

Administrators, such as Overpark principal Lisa Love, are well aware of the budget shortages, so the support of the county economic community is welcome.

“We want to provide everything that our teachers need and want in their classroom and sometimes that is just not possible,” said Love. “There’s just not enough money to go around in the budget.”

Programs, such as the Foundation for Excellence in Education, allow both teachers and students to grow in their classroom experience, especially when state support is not what many think it should be.

“My grant was for books and my kids are so excited,” said Overpark teacher Mindy Taylor. “I am just as excited about this as they are. They love books and they love to read.”

Taylor noted this was her first year teaching third grade and her previous selection on books was only geared toward her previous classroom of first-graders.

Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.

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