Education Foundation of the Summit offers grants to support teachers during the pandemic |

Education Foundation of the Summit offers grants to support teachers during the pandemic

Upper Blue Elementary Principal Robyn Sutherland poses with 2019 award recipient Kelsey Swanson and foundation Vice Chair Bonnie Ward.
Photo from Education Foundation of the Summit

KEYSTONE — It is no secret that this year will challenge educators more than ever before. With the onset of the novel coronavirus, teachers, staff and principals will have to be innovative to give their students the education they deserve.

With the reality of education in a pandemic in mind, the Education Foundation of the Summit has altered its annual Eileen Finkel Innovative Teacher Awards to help support the schools in their new normal. 

In years past, the awards were given to teachers and principals to help support creative programs and projects that teachers otherwise wouldn’t be able to do. This year, the funding will be used to help teachers adapt to the changes in the school environment.

“Maybe they need some technology training to teach in a new virtual environment,” foundation Vice Chair Bonnie Ward said. “Maybe there are some devices or software. … There’s always something new that teachers and principals might be looking at.”

The foundation also has altered its deadline requirements to help teachers get the money they need quicker. In a typical year, the foundation accepts applications until Oct. 1 and awards the money in November. This year, the Oct. 1 deadline remains, but teachers will have access to the money as soon as they are approved for the grant. 

“We knew that teachers were going to be under a lot of stress trying to adapt to this new environment,” Ward said. “So we opened it up and said, ‘Rather than waiting until Oct. 1, we will meet with the principals and the (parent teacher association) officers as soon as we can, make a decision and let teachers know so they can begin purchasing materials.'”

The foundation already has set up a meeting with school principals and parent teacher association representatives to evaluate some of the award applications. Teachers can continue to apply until Oct. 1, however. 

In years past, awards were typically $2,000 at most with more than $50,000 going to educators. This year, the foundation has increased the amount a person can receive with grants up to $10,000 each. The increased amount allows for more expensive projects like technology and software that will help educators adapt to online learning. 

The foundation uses money donated from sponsors throughout the community to help fund the awards, according to a news release about the program. 

In addition to supporting any technological needs, Ward said the foundation is hoping that educators can use the money to help support students who are doing remote learning through a mentor program and internet connectivity services. 

Hollyanna Bates, a teacher at Dillon Valley Elementary, said she hopes the program will help teachers gather more materials so students don’t have to share, which could lead to spreading the virus.

“I know teachers are looking for ways to keep classrooms safe and will need organizational systems and materials to do that,” she said. “With the shutdown of the schools, we lost books and other learning materials that haven’t been returned. We’re hoping to replace some of our key resources.”

Regardless of whether they are awarded the grants, every teacher will be given a gift card to their favorite local coffee shop when they apply, Ward said. 

“We want to do everything we can to support teachers because they are the absolute key to success with students, and this has been a very, very challenging time for them,” she said.

Teachers who are interested in the award can apply at

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