‘Elf-Sized’ grants awarded to area schools

The Maggie & Amos Foundation gave $4,950.70 to 21 educators

CHANA — The Maggie & Amos Foundation awarded nearly $5,000 in “Elf-Sized” grants to area educators for classroom activities and improvement projects.

The 19 “Elf-Sized” grants — which totaled $4,950.70 — went to 21 educators in a dozen schools. Recipients were announced Dec. 26.

“We had a really good mixture of what grants were proposed for,” said Megan Dettman, one of The Maggie & Amos Foundation’s main coordinators. “We did get some pretty awesome ones.”

The foundation is a 501(c)(3) established by friends and coworkers of Margaret “Maggie” (Rosko) Meyer who died in a house fire in Byron on Oct. 19, 2016, along with her 3-year-old son, Amos Meyer.

Duane C. Meyer, Maggie’s ex-husband and Amos’ father, is charged with their murders and arson. The case is pending in Ogle County court.

“It [the foundation] is about spreading good will in their name and not letting people forget what good they brought to the world,” Dettman said.

Dettman, Lynn Kalnins and Stephanie White are the foundation’s main coordinators.

The “Elf-Sized” grants are meant to help educators offer that extra bit of fun in their classrooms, she said. Often, money for such things comes out of the teacher’s own pocket, Dettman noted.

This is the fifth year The Maggie & Amos Foundation has offered the grants, she said. Funding comes from the Infinity Run, a fundraiser the foundation hosts.

“We didn’t do the grants our first year because we didn’t really know how the foundation was going to evolve,” Dettman said.

The maximum grant amount this time was $300, she said. They got more than 35 applications, but unfortunately didn’t have the funds to fulfill all requests, Dettman said.

The grants are named such because of the small amount and because “Elf” was Maggie’s favorite movie, Dettman said. It’s also why they tend to announce the winners around Christmas.

Recipients are selected by a blind vote, Dettman said.

Kalnins puts together a description of the grant proposal and amount requested, then sends that out to people involved in The Maggie & Amos Foundation, Dettman explained. They rank the proposals and Kalnins tallies the results, she said, adding that Kalnins doesn’t vote.

They fund as many grants as possible with their budget, Dettman said.

“It’s really cool for us, because it does go back into the community,” she said.

Grant recipients are:

Amboy Junior High School — Amboy

  • Kelly Foster, the seventh- and eighth grade social studies teacher, is creating a makerspace for students in an Elements of Design class. Students will learn entrepreneurial skills as they create and run their own business plans.
  • Kaylee Jones, the sixth grade math teacher at, is buying math VersaTiles — an interactive math curriculum tool.

Ashton-Franklin Center High School — Ashton

  • Jeri Dempsey, a science teacher, is purchasing solar panels for teaching, which will allow students to explore electricity, alternative energy and circuits.
  • Kelly Viall, an agriculture and science teacher, is getting sets of Realityworks injection pads that provide students a realistic experience of giving injections in both medical and veterinarian careers.
  • Kim Penick, a math teacher, is supporting her “Mystery Student” Challenge program, which promotes positive student behavior and classroom camaraderie.

Mary Morgan Elementary School — Byron

  • Maggie Morehead, a third grade teacher, plans to create a “Read-a-Latte Café” reading center complete with hot chocolate and cider, comfy seating and cozy lighting. The aim is to encourage students to work hard on their reading skills by earning special time in the café-inspired space.

Forreston Grade School — Forreston

  • Janese Michael, a second grade teacher, is getting a dual microphone PA system to help her students communicate more clearly during read-aloud activities, which are a classroom favorite.
  • Erin Schmidt, a fifth grade teacher, and Kristina Genandt, a fourth grade teacher, sought help purchasing materials to support the after-school science club they created four fourth- and fifth graders. They meet each month to challenge students with a fun STEM problem-based learning project.

Oregon Elementary School — Oregon

  • Cynthia Kilmer, a kindergarten teacher, is looking to rejuvenate her classroom library space to make reading more enticing and exciting for students.
  • Erin Welker, a third grade teacher, wants to help support struggling readers in her class. She is looking to offer more book options for students at lower reading levels are that are more age-appropriate and of greater interest.
  • Jackie O’Rorke, a kindergarten teacher, plans to use her grant money to create an outdoor classroom for all Oregon Elementary School students. The space will provide high quality learning experiences for children to interact with the natural world through play-based and multi-sensory activities.

Centennial Grade School — Polo

  • Jodi Merrell and Stephanie Moring, both preschool teachers, want to purchase a color printer to more easily create a wide variety of visuals, schedules and pictures to help their students learn not only the skills to navigate their school day, but also to support their visual learning.

Aplington Middle School — Polo

  • Katie Chesnut, Aplington Middle School secretary, noted that teachers in her building could benefit greatly from a Cricut Maker that can make the school a more pleasing space for students, as well as give students the chance to design and craft shirts for fundraising efforts.

Tilton Elementary School — Rochelle

  • Sarah Laviere, a speech teacher, plans to use her funds to purchase manipulatives and activities to support her students speech and communication needs. The games and hands-on materials help her students stay more engaged during their sessions with Laviere.

Lincoln Elementary School — Rochelle

  • Katelyn Gabbard, a first grade teacher, is new this year and has been borrowing many of her materials from more tenured colleagues. The grant funds will help Gabbard purchase her own supplies to continue growing her classroom materials to better support her current and future students.
  • Nicole Tobler, a kindergarten teacher, wants to create play-based learning stations for her students. She has been working hard to offer more hands-on learning for her students. She has many ideas of what to do with the materials she’ll be purchasing, including a farmer’s market, produce stand, hot cocoa cart, tree farm and pet adoption center.

Rochelle Middle School — Rochelle

  • Jayme McCombs, a seventh grade teacher, looked to her students to determine what she should purchase with the grant money. Students created a wish-list of items they feel would help them learn at their best, including some specialty seating items and other “fidgets and focusers.”

Rochelle Township High School — Rochelle

  • Hannah Busching, a foreign language teacher, will use her grant funds to replace the 36-year-old equipment used by the high school’s speech team, including speakers and microphones.

Stillman Valley High School — Stillman Valley

  • Ryan Read, a teacher in the high school business department, plans to use the grant money to fix the classroom’s 3D printer. Once it’s working again, Read is excited to begin utilizing the printer to help support STEAM curriculum in classes such as science, consumer education and business.