Village Oaks Elementary School fourth grade teacher Nicholas Weigel-Hubler works in the school’s greenhouse Monday, Nov. 29. Weigel-Hubler was one of 18 teachers who was awarded a grant from the Novi Educational Foundation.

Village Oaks Elementary School fourth grade teacher Nicholas Weigel-Hubler works in the school’s greenhouse Monday, Nov. 29. Weigel-Hubler was one of 18 teachers who was awarded a grant from the Novi Educational Foundation.

Photo by Brian Wells


Educational foundation grants help Novi teachers bring new opportunities for learning

By: Brian Wells | Novi Note | Published December 12, 2021

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NOVI — Nicholas Weigel-Hubler became a teacher because he wanted to create a welcoming space for all students.

“I feel strongly that students must feel respected and valued to give their best effort, and to feel confident when tackling new and challenging academic opportunities,” Weigel-Hubler, a fourth grade teacher at Village Oaks Elementary, said in an email.

So when the Novi Educational Foundation awarded him a grant to create more hands-on science learning opportunities for his students, Weigel-Hubler said he felt both proud and honored.

“It’s very, very rewarding. … The reason I got into education is to give a place for everyone to feel like they belong, but I also want to spark interest,” he said. “I’m really grateful. … I’m really thankful for myself personally, but mostly for the opportunities that are going to be available for the students.”

Leanne Molnar, a physical education and computer applications teacher at Novi High School, also was awarded a grant. Her goal as a teacher has always been to expose students to a variety of ways to move their bodies in order to find something they enjoy and continue to practice.

“It is so rewarding to see students find joy and empowerment in movement through either sport or fitness,” Molnar said in an email.

Each year, the foundation awards grants to teachers in the district. Teachers can apply for the grants twice per year. Applications are then evaluated by representatives from the school district to make sure they align with the goals of the district.

“We provide enhancements to what the school district does, additional opportunities and enhancements to what we say is a world-class education in Novi,” said Jason Smith, executive director of the Novi Educational Foundation.

This year, grants totaling $15,387 were given to 18 teachers across the district. The money is raised by donations, mostly from business partners and parents in the district.

In the past, projects such as a garden at every elementary school or a hammock garden have been sponsored by companies like Bosch or DTE Energy.

“It’s partnering with the business community to be able to provide these extra enhancements,” Smith said. “For a kid to be able to grab a book and go outside and maybe just read, maybe relax, maybe meet a new friend at the hammock next to them, that’s just awesome.”

The foundation will look at the applications submitted to determine if they can be spread to other schools in the district. For example, every elementary school now has a garden, which started as a grant application at Parkview Elementary School.

Weigel-Hubler received $750 from the foundation, which will be used to purchase kits that can test soil quality while also looking for different chemicals and pH levels in soil and water. While the district has a great science curriculum, he said, the kits will help students have a more meaningful hands-on experience by making it local.

“The same way that we teach social studies to young students, by talking about the buildings and the members of our community, we want to make science local in a way that engages them in the place that they live or the place that they go to school,” he said.

Molnar was awarded a grant for $1,000. With the money, she was able to purchase materials to teach yoga and Pilates classes to her students. She has a vision of being able to introduce her students to a warm, safe studio vibe where they can take time to reflect through journaling and mindful moments while also gaining strength and flexibility.

“When I taught in the elementary school, I would do yoga days with my students, and they all enjoyed trying new poses, balancing and breathwork,” she said. “I am really excited to bring this opportunity to the students at the high school level.”

Contact Brian Wells at (586) 498-1081 or (248) 291-7637, or email him at bwells@candgnews.com.

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