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May 20, 2022

South Monterey County teachers use funds to reconnect with students after challenging year

Aera Energy helps stock classroom tools in San Ardo and San Lucas

SAN LUCAS — Teachers in San Ardo and San Lucas schools are getting a boost for their classrooms through impact grants provided by Aera Energy.

Teachers applied for the grants to fund the purchase of such items as science activity kits and age-appropriate books — tools used to reconnect with students after an incredibly challenging year of distance and in-person learning.

“We’ve all clung together and made it through Covid, which is very encouraging to show what we can withstand,” said Jessica Riley, principal of San Lucas School and superintendent of the San Lucas Union School District. “Teachers know how to push children in a healthy way and keep students engaged in lessons. We were robbed of the opportunity when everyone had to stay at home. As our teachers work to put the pieces back together, these impact grants could not be coming at a better time.”

It was apparent extra support was needed in the classrooms as record numbers of Aera grant applications were received and awarded this year in Monterey County. Impact grants in the amount of $2,457 were awarded to classrooms at San Ardo School, and $2,508 in grants were awarded to teachers at San Lucas School.

San Lucas teacher Lacey Kistler received a grant to purchase Instant Learning Centers and STEM challenge kits for her students in transitional kindergarten through the second grade.

“We did our best to keep students engaged with distance learning,” Kistler said. “Our students missed the chance to work together in groups and learn how to problem solve with each other. They didn’t have the opportunity to have academic conversations with other students. These new tools are amazing for their growth now that we are back in the classroom.”

Teacher Caroline Fink shows off new science materials at San Lucas School. (Contributed)

Teachers applied for the grants by providing a description of their desired project, how students will be impacted and how success of the project will be measured. 

San Ardo School teachers Ellie Ruffner and Marta Robles asked for age-appropriate books to help build their classroom libraries, support their English learners, and so many of their students who needed a boost after falling behind in reading over the last year.

“This year has been difficult for teachers and students,” said Kathy Miller, Aera public affairs coordinator for Monterey County. “Yet teachers continue to be innovative, creative and find new ways to engage with students. We should all applaud their efforts in making great things happen for local students.”

With the help of the impact grant, teacher Caroline Fink was able to purchase sensory tubs for her first through third graders at San Lucas School.

“We’re giving students the tools to think beyond science concepts when we put these activities in their hands,” Fink said. “These impact grants have really helped repair the gap that has been created in the interaction between students, it gives them more to talk about, and they’re learning to collaborate in a more effective way. These are crucial skills they will continue to build for the future.”

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