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2020 Opportunity Grant Recipients

The 2020 Opportunity Awards have been selected. In no particular order they are:

Susan Smith, Principal Teacher at Takotna Community School in the Iditarod Area school district.  Her project is to purchase durable materials for teaching math skills. These include dice, decks of cards, graphing games. All teachers will have access to the material.

Sean Campbell, Homer High School, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, will purchase graphic novels for use with his Freshman class to encourage reading and to help struggling readers improve.

Linda Hulen, Bowman Elementary, Anchorage School District, will purchase the material to build a hydroponic growing tower. Parents will help the students build the tower. The ultimate goal is to allow the students and the community to learn about sustainable food production.

Melissa Rowe, Emmonak School, Lower Yukon School District, (coincidentally!!) will also purchase materials to build a  food tower. Besides growing fresh greens for the students, the goal is to eventually raise enough to sell and then purchase material for additional towers.

Suzanne Walters, Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat School at Quinhagak, Lower Kuskokwim School District, will purchase frames for student art that is displayed in the airport there as an introduction to the village for incoming visitors. They have already held other fund raisers for the project.

Leah Babcock, Denali Montessori Elementary School, Anchorage School District, will purchase STEM material for her migrant education pre-K students to help with language development and cooperative skills.

Retired teachers from Fairbanks made the selections this year. They reported applications from all over the state.  The projects were all exemplary and again they wished we could have awarded them all.

These awards are funded from donations and from a bequest made several years ago for scholarships. If you LIFE members, and any others,  wonder how you can help, a donation to the Opportunity Grant funds would be a great move.. Send it to Opportunity Grants, 214 Birch Street, Kenai AK  99611.

‍On behalf of Bowman, I'd like to thank the Alaska Retired Educators for funding the school's grow tower. Students will construct the tower, with help of parents, as one of the first activities of the after-school garden club when sessions began in February. The students who were in the garden club this fall are thrilled to hear that the tower is a "GO!"

We appreciate your support, Linda


Thank you for the gracious award! The money helped to offset the cost of the picture frames in our project. What a blessing. Our students are so excited. This project has helped them understand the influence they have on their village. They are wonderful students who are eager to learn.

As requested, I have attached a synopsis of our Welcome to Quinhagak Airport Project. Please contact me if you have any questions. Thank you again for this award.

Kind regards,

Suzanne Walters
Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat School
117 Airport Road
Quinhagak, Alaska

2014  Juneau selected

  1. Scott Darter, Ladd Elementary , Fairbanks, with a project for students to interact with a working scientist while engaging in real - life hands – on science.

  2. Lyndsay Hamachek, Whaley Special School, Anchorage, whose project developed a curriculum and creative approach to empower the girls to work together and foster respect

  3. Pamela Lambert, University Park Elementary School, Fairbanks used Versa Tile sets to practice and reinforce literacy and math skills during the After School Program.

  4. Kipp Norris, George H. Gelson Middle School, Valdez requested lathe tools to provide more opportunities for middle school students in the Woodshop Program

  5. Joshua J. Pittsenbarger, Galena Interior Learning Academy, Galena, requested parts for reclaiming and modifying a vehicle from a recent flood.

  6. Alisa Thompson, Point Higgins Elementary School, Ketchikan used special paper that can be transformed into a plastic plate to learn about the orca, the school mascot.

Congratulations to these innovative educators.

A committee of Kenai area retired teachers recently selected the 2015 AKREA classroom Opportunity Grants

Sixteen applications from teachers all over the state were received. The awards, in no special order, are:

To Caputnguaq School, Cherfognak in  Lower Kuskokwim District for an INDOOR GARDEN. Stefanie Sprenkle says," I believe an indoor garden will give the students something to care for, work for and be rewarded with…I think it is truly important for students to learn where their food comes from and how it is grown."

To Delta Greely School, Big Delta,  Delta Greely District, for ESL books to help the Puerto Rican students, the children of military personnel recently stationed at Fort Greely. Tiki Levinson explained. "This increases their capability in both class and socially. The other students will no longer be unable to communicate with them and co they become more interwoven into…the school and the community."

To Northwood Elementary in the Anchorage District for a school wide display of a salmon life cycle, Kelsey Deiman said "Salmon are a great tool to teaching  life cycles and relating it to the many Alaskan cultures that rely on salon as their livelihood."

To Campbell Elementary, Anchorage District for graphic novels. Holly Rinehart stated.: I …have a high percentage of struggling and reluctant readers in my class….Whenever my students have an opportunity to read they go immediately to graphic novels. [They] act as a magnet to the students in my class."

To Haines School Library Services, Haines Borough School District for people puppets. Leigh Horner wrote. "The…Library Program has been using animal puppets to tell stories written by students throughout the school. [People puppets] will allow the students to write and perform plays more specific to normal life."

Opportunity Grant awards, 2016   Fairbanks selected

Jennifer Sargent from Sandpoint, Aleutian East School District, to buy supplies  for a project to analyze cleaning compounds and determine the efficacy of each and whether natural is as good as or better than chemicals.

Sharee Smith and Angela Hayden, Sleetmute Jack Egnaty Sr. School, Kuspuk School district, to help with gas money for a student trip outside the state including travel by car to points of interest.

Gwendolyn Brazier, Arctic Light Elementary, Ft. Wainwright, Fairbanks North Star School District, to purchase age appropriate violins for the kindergarten class music program

Andrea Korbe, Whittier School, Chugach School District, to purchase a sewing machine for the classroom

Julie Gottfried, Sterling Elementary, Kenia Peninsula Borough School District to purchase binoculars for bird identification along the Nature Trail near the school.

Penney Connealy, Ninilchik School, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, for a student trip to the Kachemak Bay research facility to study invertebrates.

The Classroom Opportunity Grants have been awarded for 2017.

Retired teachers from Anchorage selected the 6 winners from applications from all over the state. They are:

Teresa Ellingson  who teaches fifth grade at Crawford Elementary School on Eielson AFB   for a classroom greenhouse project .

Shelley Andresen  at Romig Middle School in Anchorage for crock pots and cook books to teach students who are responsible for themselves and/or siblings after school how to cook.

Ray Imel who teaches at Dzantik'i ScHeeni Middle school  in Juneau for a water bottle refiller.

Keith Carroll at Anguiin Elim School  in Elim for a can recycling project.

Katie Wilkins at Mikelnguut Ebitnaurviat School in Bethel for 'mindfulness tools"

Kari Syth who is a P.E.teacher at West Homer Elementary school for bikes and helmets'

The committee stressed that all of the projects were exemplary and  selecting the 6 winners was rewarding, if exasperating because they couldn't award them all.

2018  Juneau selected

For the fifth year, Alaska Retired Educators Association  selected five classroom teachers from around the state to receive up to $200 for a classroom project not otherwise funded.

One award went to Sarah Vosz in Dillingham to purchase first grade books for an additional classroom of first graders this year.

Margaret Jones and Tamera Flores from Fairview elementary in Anchorage partnered to purchase grow towers for two classrooms to show the students how to grow sustainable food.

Carolyn Choate at Homer Flex High School will redo an area in her kitchen classroom to accommodate a Culinary Arts class.

Katie Bates at Midnight Sun Elementary and two other schools in the North Pole area will purchase new strings for 24 stringed instruments that have not been restrung in the 19 years she has been in the district. She will do the work herself.

John Notestine from Wasilla High will use the funds to purchase a beam splitter glass so his students can build a teleprompter to improve the daily news broadcast his students produce for the community.

The AKREA Opportunity Awards for 2019 have been selected:

Theresa Miller of Raven Home School, Yukon Koyukuk School District for reading backpacks for K-2 students to use over the summer to be checked out by the parents. The backpacks contain age appropriate books and other literacy materials for the students'  use.

Gordon Hart of Andrew K Demoski School, Yukon-Koyukuk School District for  baking pans, mixing bowls, utensils, and necessary ingredients for cookies and cup cakes for his intensive disabled students to learn daily living skills. They plan to then sell the items in the school cafeteria and apply the money to a special project for the school

Brittany Taraba of Hooper Bay School, Lower Yukon School District for indoor play equipment for organized, safe play inside during winter. The equipment will be available to multiple teachers and students.

Laura Anania at Naukati Schook, Southeast Island School District, for hand tools to use for small projects around the community; I.e. garden boxes, birdhouses, benches. This project, called "Hearts into Homemade" will teach proper tool use as well as all the thinking skills necessary for building and working together.

Sara Lamont of Larson Elementary in the Mat-Su Borough School District for larvae kits for her kindergarten students. They plan to raise caterpillars and ladybugs and release them in the spring. This project will teach the students responsibility, to treat animals with respect and not to fear 'creepy crawlies'

Brittany Dretke of Colony High School, Mat-Su Borough School District for a hygiene project for students in  need. They will purchase necessary clothing (socks, underwear) and  hygiene products. Besides benefiting the students, the project itself teaches real-life skills as they prepare the space for housing the project, make a list of necessary items, and do the shopping

A committee of teachers in Kenai made the selections this year. All applications were deserving and the selection was not an easy process. We received many more from outlying districts this year, which was gratifying.

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