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February 11, 2013

Grant money boosts student learning

By Maria Allard
C & G Staff Writer

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Lincoln Elementary School teacher Melanie Van Maele, left, receives a $469 Teacher Extra Curricular Activity Money grant from Ashley Winiarski, Extra Credit Union schools and community relations coordinator. Van Maele will use the grant money for a classroom reading/writing center and chart tables.

At age 75, Westview Elementary School physical education teacher George Cutshaw is still going strong.

Each day, he keeps fit right along with his students at the school, which is part of Fitzgerald Public Schools.

“I exercise with every class myself, six to seven times a day,” said Cutshaw, entering his 50th year of teaching. “The kids can’t even keep up with me.”

And now those students will have more equipment with which to stay physically active. Cutshaw, who also teaches at Mound Park, is among a group of eight local educators who recently received a 2012 Teacher Extra Curricular Activity Money classroom grant from Extra Credit Union in Warren.

Eighteen grant proposals were submitted, and eight projects were selected. Nearly $10,000 in grant money was awarded between the eight educators.

Cutshaw’s $862 grant will be used in “helping to reduce obesity through extended play activity.” The money will pay for new a set of jump ropes, footballs and soccer balls for each classroom at Westview. The equipment will be available throughout each school day for active play.

“Every school in the United States has an obesity problem,” said Cutshaw, also the Warren Woods Tower High School girls and boys varsity tennis coach. “The No. 1 problem is diet. There are too many sugary foods … candies with fat and sugar. Kids do not get outside. Kids spend too much time sitting in front of some type of screen.”

One thing Cutshaw does when teaching is play music for his students.

“It enhances their ability to move,” he said.

Lincoln Elementary School teacher Melanie Van Maele in Van Dyke Public Schools received a $469 grant for classroom reading/writing center and chart tables; Dakota High School educator Jackie Piscopink in Chippewa Valley Schools received $1,000 for DHS 9 Literature Circles/Book Club; Center Line Public Schools Early Childhood Center coordinator Doris Culbertson received $840 for blocks for building; Westview Principal Denise Kluck received $2,000 for “enhancing literacy through the use of iPad technology”; Grissom Middle School educator David Wilson in Warren Consolidated Schools received $1,250 for the school’s ECU 40 Book Challenge; and Fitzgerald High School educator Angela Gilchrist received $1,500 for a multicultural talent show and extravaganza.

Extra Credit Union has been supporting teachers since 1954.

“Last year, we introduced the classroom grant program because we knew budget cuts were impacting teachers’ ability to do a little extra with their students,” Extra Credit Union CEO Deidra Williams said in a prepared statement. “We applaud the passion of these educators and are so glad they can use these funds to maximize their lessons, fill gaps in resources and bring new experiences to local kids.”

The talents of the Sterling Heights High School marching band will enhance for the 2013-14 school year, thanks to a $2,000 TEAM grant. Band Director Anthony Imbrounone said the grant will be presented during the school’s spring concert May 29. SHHS is part of Warren Consolidated Schools.

“We’ll have a nice presentation in front of the students and parents,” said Imbrounone, who was “very excited” to be a grant recipient. “I was very thankful to the Extra Credit Union.  How kind of them to have this program in place for our schools and to also see the value in music education.”

The grant money will be helpful, especially for the band parents, the band director said.

“It will pay for our drill writer and for the sheet music,” Imbrounone said. “We have to pay someone to write the drill, and I have to order the sheet music from a company.”

Imbrounone has yet to select the marching band’s field show for 2013-2014, although the students are curious.

“The kids are asking me every day,” he said with a laugh.

To celebrate the band’s 40th anniversary this past season, the musicians performed a halftime show that featured music from decades past.

“We have fun at the (football) games,” said Imbrounone, a huge football fan who did his share of half-time shows when attending the University of Michigan. “I try to pick music that is relevant for (the students.)”