17 local teachers honored with SELCO Community Credit Union SPARK! grants


Through its annual SPARK! Creative Learning Grants program, SELCO Community Credit Union has awarded more than $54,000 to 64 educators at 55 schools across Oregon, including 17 programs at 14 Central Oregon schools.

The program, which funds innovative educational and extracurricular projects, provides grants of as much as $1,000 to K-12 educators across the 27 Oregon counties that SELCO serves.

SELCO’s SPARK! Creative Learning Grants have long supported teachers who have creative classroom ideas but lack the funds to get those projects off the ground.

This year’s grant funding represents an increase of more than $11,000 from 2020, when 47 grants were awarded to 38 schools.

This year’s recipients will be celebrated on December 10th, at 3:30 p.m. via SELCO’s virtual grant ceremony, which will be hosted live on Instagram (@selcoccu).

“The basic premise behind SPARK! is in the name — spark creativity, imagination, and learning through unique programs in search of funding,” said Craig Carpenter, SELCO’s senior vice president of lending and business banking. “As students and teachers return to in-person learning this school year, we felt it was more important than ever for SELCO to be a strong advocate in the classroom.”

Among the many notable Central Oregon project highlights are a drone-powered geo-spatial mapping program, a fishing lure building and fish conservation project, and a reader’s workshop about engagement through cultural diversity and equity.

A complete list of statewide recipients and project descriptions can be found HERE.

The committee’s goal is to fund innovative projects that will have the largest possible impact on students and the greatest opportunity to leave a lasting impression.

One recent example is from Elizabeth Skenzick’s classroom at Elmira Elementary, a grant recipient for its “Squiggle Art for Growth Mindset” program.

Skenzick and her first-grade class used their SPARK! Grant to create a children’s book called “The Magic Garden,” which allowed every student to become a published author by writing about and illustrating what they would plant in their own magic garden.

“These past two school years have been especially hard for families, students, and staff,” said Skenzick. “But this grant has been a bright spot through it all.”

For more information on SELCO Community Credit Union’s SPARK! Creative Learning Grants or to follow the progress of some of the grant recipients, visit www.selco.org/spark.

The Central Oregon winners are below:

Bend Tech Academy at Marshall High School

Heather Johnson, “Wellness & Physical Fitness Program” — Providing our students with movement, activities, and connections that have them feeling happier, healthier, and empowered.

Dillon Mucha, “Logo Design” — Creating a workstation to design logos and graphics for our leadership-led student store.

Caldera High School

Rayne Cedergreer, “Operation Brain Break” — Creating classroom kits to promote the recharging of students’ prefrontal cortex in order to keep them engaged in learning.

Culver Elementary School

Artesha Ballard, “Love For Reading” — Creating lifelong readers through access and ownership of books.

Culver Middle School

Mark Habliston, “Lure Building Components” — Introducing students to outdoor recreation opportunities and impacts by building fishing lures and collaborating with ODFW on fish restoration.

Desert Sky Montessori

Pascaline Ocana, “Amplifying 2D Art with the Power of a Press” — Exploring the art concept of positive and negative space and creating tangible products through use of a manual press.

Elk Meadow Elementary School

Allison Gardner, “Reader’s Workshop: Engagement Through Cultural Diversity and Equity” — Providing the opportunity to self-select high interest, engaging texts that represent a span of characters, topics, and events that support cultural diversity and social equity.

Juniper Elementary School

Maddi Webb, “Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto” — Using robotics in the classroom to learn a multitude of skills, from technology to problem solving to social emotional learning.

La Pine High School

Ken Thorp, “Projects on the Rise” — Developing opportunities involving arts and crafts, woodshop, and carpentry experiences to gain diverse set of vocational skills.

Cari Fike, “Expanding Vocational Opportunities” — Establishing a coffee cart as part of our vocational training program.

M.A. Lynch Elementary School

Christina Connelly, “Gaga Ball Pit Creation” — Providing materials for 5th graders to build a Gaga Ball Pit to engage the whole school in active play.

Madras Elementary School

Carmen Lawson, “Kindergarten Garden” — The objective of this project is to promote kindergarten self-help skills, turn taking, understanding of the life-cycle/ living things, and to fully utilize the exisiting work garden space.

Pacific Crest Middle School

Stacia Biancucci, “Nourishing Our Brains to Build Resilience” — Building our program supplies with social/emotional workbooks and kitchen items to support student regulation and well-being.

Sage Elementary School

Gina Dietz, “First Grade STEM Bins” — 1st Grade STEM Bins will provide multiple opportunities for our 1st graders to practice problem solving, collaborating, and thinking outside the box, to create innovative engineering structures.

Ashley McDonough, “Brain Bags” — Individualized “brain bags” to provide extra practice for previously taught skills and creating an enrichment opportunity to differentiate the needs for each first grade student.

Tom McCall Elementary School

Natalie Richards, “National Parks STEAM Partner Project” — Creating 3D maps of various National Parks complete with a coded park ranger ‘SPHERO’ to promote team work and communication, research, and an introduction to lifelong computer science skills.

Trinity Lutheran School

Alisa Jeffries, “Exploring from Above: Geo Spacial Mapping” — Identifying landmarks through Geospacial mapping using drones around Bend, OR.



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