Rotary Club provides grants to Culver City teachers

Wave Staff Report

CULVER CITY — The Culver City Rotary Community Foundation has partnered with the Culver City Education Foundation for a $20,000 grant distribution to more than 50 local teachers.

Many teachers received more than $200 each to go towardclassroom projects, with a handful of $2,000 grants given to complete more robust grade-level or school projects.

“We are so thankful for our amazing Culver City teachers and we are so happy to help support them,” said Jodie Fratantuno, vocational chair of the Culver City Rotary Community Foundation.

Teachers receiving grants attended a reception at the Culver City Rotary Plaza, where Fratantuno,

Rotary Club President Carmela Raack, and Culver City Education Foundation Executive Director Wendy Hamill distributed checks and in-person congratulations. Teachers submitted grant requests to fund classroom tools and materials, books, supplemental curriculum materials, field trips, technology accessories and the means to ensure safe and organized indoor and outdoor learning spaces.

Hamill said the Culver City Education Foundation was pleased to partner with the Culver City Rotary Community Foundation to bring these resources into Culver City classrooms, and to support teachers’ innovative projects.

The need for diverse books at appropriate reading levels in English, Spanish, and Japanese was a common request from teachers across many schools for their general education, special education and language immersion classrooms. Building a library of diverse books and learning materials is also a priority for the after-care program at Farragut Elementary School. After-care programs are often “overlooked,” by funding sources, “even though these are the same students that go to our elementary school,” saidd Rotary Teacher Grant awardee Aretha Tillett.

Teachers at various campuses received funding for supplemental learning curriculums for social studies, social emotional learning, and early math and literacy at various campuses. Farragut second grade teacher Minyoung Phai said, “Specifically for my students with below-grade-level reading skills who are also foster youth, homeless, English language learners, and students of color, strong, rigorous and consistent phonics instruction resources will have a truly positive and meaningful impact on these students’ futures.”

Hands-on math learning materials connect mathematics to real-world contexts, from a “Learning with Numbers” program funded for Cyndi Flowers’ special education preschool classroom, to 150 wipe boards that enable an engaging “Thinking Classroom” approach for sixth graders at Culver City Middle School. Mason Sustayta hopes that his fifth grade students at El Rincon Elementary will envision themselves as mathematicians through posters featuring mathematicians of different cultures and backgrounds, and Keely Dowdall plans to convert her third-grade classroom at Farragut Elementary into a pizza shop to enable fun, interactive investigations of fractions. 

Many proposals demonstrate how teachers across the district understand the need to integrate elements of fun into learning. 

“Play can be rigorous, promote a growth mindset, can be connected to teaching points, and can also relate to careers that students can see themselves doing someday,” said El Rincon kindergarten teacher Jennifer Zapata. 

Added her colleague Katherine Gray, “Dramatic play is important for kindergarten-aged students because it offers them opportunities to express themselves and make meaningful connections with their peers. It also helps students practice essential social skills like taking turns, problem solving, self-regulation, and cooperation.”

“The Culver City Rotary Community Foundation is thrilled to support the important work our teachers do in the classroom, which in the long-term benefits not only the 7,000 students of [the district], but also our broader Culver City community,” said Fratantuno.

Eileen Pottinger, the art and innovation lab teacher at Farragut Elementary said, “My favorite thing about the Rotary Teacher Grant is feeling supported by the community. Knowing that the people making these decisions are all local and have a good understanding of what CCUSD does helps me feel that my work is appreciated in a very concrete, personal way. This grant really makes me feel empowered as a teacher to do what is right for my students.”