AASD Foundation supports teacher projects


Paige Matteson

Teachers and other educators begin to receive grants from the AASD foundation with projects they have done. Deidra Dumm shared her grant money with Paige Matteson to help make ice cream with their students.

Peyton Daniel , Reporter

Since 1988, the Altoona Area School District Foundation has provided funding to enhance educational projects within the district. Each year the foundation provides an application process for teachers, and this year awarded a total of 38 Venture Grants for Teachers and five Educator in Residence Grants. 

There are multiple steps included within the application process that teachers and others must go through in order to apply for a grant. 

“Applications are accepted from teachers yearly,” Community Relations Director Paula Foreman said. “It’s a simple application where they can outline the scope of the project and provide a detailed budget. The venture grant deadline is Oct 1. The Educator in Residence deadline is Oct 1 or Jan 1. The grants are then reviewed by AASD administration first to make sure the request aligns with the district’s curriculum. They are then reviewed by the AASD Foundation’s Projects Committee. The projects that are recommended for funding are then presented to the AASD Founding Board for approval. The Venture Grant gives teachers the opportunity to pilot a program or idea in the classroom that is innovative and creative. Teachers who are awarded a grant use the funds to purchase supplies, equipment, etc. to implement their idea. They are required to provide updates throughout the year as to the progress of the project and then a final report at the end of the year evaluating the program. Our hope is that these programs become part of the curriculum and are sustained from year to year. The reason we offer two submission dates for Educator-in-Residence grants is to give an additional opportunity for teachers to invite experts into their classrooms during the second half of the school year.”

The high school received 12 grants this year. 

“Mrs. Detwiler and I went together and did the grant to have Greg Brandt, Michael Kooman and Thomas Sweitzer talk back in January about their careers and theater in the arts. The students in music and drama come down and listen to those presentations, and they seem to really enjoy it. The educators in residence performed for them and kind of showed off their skills and what all they could do. The kids were given the opportunity to ask questions about how they made it in their careers, what training was needed, and I think they got a lot out of that,” Ben Cossiter said.

“I received a foundation grant this year to have a class pet, a reptile, added to my classroom,” zoology and biology teacher Jessica Hogan said. “This grant has been a huge success. My students adore Franklin, our bearded dragon, and we all learned a lot about reptiles and animals in general by taking care of him. You need tanks and special lighting and then crickets every week and now he plays with a toy ball and has a leash and a hammock to climb and that all costs a lot. I thought I’d apply for a grant and see what would happen and here we are.”

Teachers plan ahead for grants. 

“I would absolutely apply for another one in the future,” Hogan said. “The process is easy and the foundation is very supportive of ideas we teachers have to enhance our curriculum.”

I typically apply for and receive a grant each year,” physics teacher Diedra Dumm said. “They are such a great way to help fund some of the activities and projects for our classes that we may not otherwise be able to.”

One of the missions of the AASD Foundation is to enhance education. 

I relate lessons to Franklin, and it gives more buy into the lesson,” Hogan said. “I knew I would be teaching zoology this year, and I wanted to augment that by having a class pet and reptiles were suggested as an easy care pet. Franklin has been a bit more high maintenance than I bargained for, but the kids love him and he’s been a positive addition to the classroom.”

“The grants give our students a chance to look at everyday objects and understand the science behind them,” science teacher Christine Falger said.

“These grants have always been so beneficial,” Dumm said. “They allow me (and the other teachers) to try out projects in the classroom that we may otherwise not be able to due to the cost. They really allow us the ability to create activities and projects that support our curriculum and add excitement to the classroom. I received two grants this year – Engineering in Physics and Fun with Food in Chemistry (and Physics). Engineering in physics is a grant that allows the students to be able to build and engineer different projects that can then be used to reinforce the physics concepts that we are learning at that time. The Food in Chemistry grant is one that allows us to use food to reinforce different concepts in chemistry such as nuclear decay, reaction rates and thermodynamics.”