Pictured above: Projects and tools funded by PEP’s Micro Grant program.
To help meet the needs of early career teachers during the 2020-2021 school year, Public Education Partners (PEP) offered micro grants to help offset teaching costs for classroom projects, supplies, and virtual learning tools. PEP initially pledged $5,000 to cover 25 micro grants at $200 each, but quickly doubled the amount due to the overwhelming response from teachers. In total, 51 grants were awarded totalling $10,000.
“Websites like Donors Choose are a great platform, but it can take months to receive funds. Micro grants were a way for PEP to meet the needs of teachers immediately,” said program associate Carol Beard. “The online applications went live on October 23rd and the entire process was complete in less than four weeks with all teachers receiving their checks before Thanksgiving break.”
PEP offered micro grants to teachers from 15 schools, as well as all early-career virtual K-8 teachers. The qualification process was very intentional, focusing on schools with a high poverty index (those over 60%) and an average teacher turnover rate of 15% or more.
“Knowing that the first three years of teaching are critical to teacher retention, we chose to zero in on early career teachers,” said PEP’s program director Qena Jennings. “K-8 virtual teachers may be operating without traditional support systems. Often they are teaching in very isolated environments and with a unique set of needs. We were excited to support 29 virtual teachers with micro grants.”
Over the summer, Greenville County Schools organized and expanded its K-8 virtual instruction program to meet the needs of approximately 25,000 – or 30% – of students who opted for fulltime virtual learning. At the same time, CDC guidelines, along with modified attendance plans, placed new strains on teachers managing both in-person and online lessons. “This grant allowed me to purchase a second monitor and a laptop stand. It has made such a difference! I am now able to present my screen while still monitoring and engaging with students,” said a micro grant recipient who teaches 2nd grade ESOL virtually.
Projects funded by micro grants also included subscriptions to online resources, traditional classroom supplies, and technology needs such as headphones and cameras. This year PEP also supported 10 larger projects at schools through its annual Mullins and Building STEAM grants, which together funded $24,500 worth of teacher and principal-led initiatives.