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5 members earn $12,000 in grants from NEA Foundation

Five Education Minnesota members have received grants from the National Education Association Foundation to improve learning for Minnesota students.

  • Kari Latterell, a kindergarten to sixth-grade special education teacher, and her co-applicant, Jessie Shepherd, of Ogilvie Elementary School in Ogilvie received a $5,000 Student Achievement Grant to fund “Using Technology to Enhance Learning,” a project incorporating tablet technology to assist special education students with learning, emotional and behavioral disabilities. The use of tablet technology will allow students to advance in the achievement of individual academic goals and objectives by tracking their progress. Additionally, tablet use will enhance daily instruction of reading, math, writing and social skills training.
  • Mary Theresa Schmitz, a kindergarten to fifth-grade social worker at Hassan Elementary School in Rogers received a $2,000 Learning and Leadership Grant to create a “Mindful Classroom” as a Tier 1 Response to Intervention to increase student focus and improve self-regulation of emotions. Through direct instruction, along with daily practice of mindfulness curricula, students will exhibit fewer absences due to anxiety and/or psychosomatic complaints and fewer aggressive behaviors. Schmitz will share these techniques with colleagues and students’ parents.
  • Michael Simurdiak, a 10th- to 12th-grade science teacher, and his co-applicant, Kirk Hedberg, of Park High School in Cottage Grove received a $5,000 Student Achievement Grant to lead students in using mini gas chromatographs in several chemistry experiments to detect and quantify the components in an unknown mixture. Students will analyze the effectiveness of separating two components from a mixture via distillation and test the purity of a product created during organic chemistry synthesis. They will also analyze the efficiency of their processes throughout the experiments.

Nationwide, the NEA Foundation awarded 49 grants totaling $197,000 to support educators’ efforts to improve teaching and learning. The NEA Foundation awards two primary categories of grants to public education professionals: Student Achievement Grants for initiatives to improve academic achievement, and Learning and Leadership Grants for high-quality professional development activities. Of these, one is an NEA Foundation-EarthEcho Water Planet Challenge Grants, which support service-learning programs that improve the health of our water planet.

A team of 20 educators evaluated applications. Funded grants were selected for the quality of the proposed ideas and their potential for enhancing student achievement. The latest grants were awarded to educators in 26 different states. 

The NEA Foundation has invested more than $8.6 million in grants to support the work of almost 4,000 educators from every state to help students succeed. Each year, the Foundation awards approximately 150 Student Achievement and Learning and Leadership Grants. To learn about these educators’ projects, visit the searchable grantee database at

The Foundation awards its grants three times a year. The next grant deadline is Feb. 1. For application forms and instructions on how to apply, go to The NEA Foundation is a public charity supported by contributions from educators’ dues, corporate sponsors and others.

Education Minnesota is an affiliate of the National Education Association, the American Federation of Teachers and AFL-CIO.

Education Minnesota
41 Sherburne Ave.
St. Paul, MN 55103

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