published Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Junior League of Chattanooga offers funds to teachers

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For more information or to apply for a minigrant, visit www.jlchatt.org.

The Junior League of Chattanooga will more than double the amount it gives in minigrants to area teachers this year.

In the past, the group has doled out about $20,000 annually in small grants to Hamilton County public school teachers. But a $25,000 donation from Chattem's Hamico Foundation will help the Junior League give away $50,000 this year, leaders say.

Minigrants are awarded in amounts up to $750 to teachers who apply online for classroom projects. Junior League President Jennifer Franklin said the group has funded a variety of school needs, including physical education equipment, software programs and science materials.

"There's really no limitation," she said. "Anything they can come up with that helps them teach students is fair game."

Dannis Weathersby, chairman of the minigrants program, said teachers' requests vary widely, but even the simplest ideas can receive funding.

"It doesn't have to be anything super crazy or unusual," she said.

Some past minigrant projects include a pancake breakfast for kindergartners, funding an anti-bullying speaker and implementing a pen pal program in one classroom.

The grants are designed to supplement cash-strapped school budgets, Weathersby said.

"It's more of enrichment projects that the teachers in theory would buy on their own. If they had $750 of their own money, this is what they would buy for their class," she said.

Last year, the group received 140 applications, but had funding for only 45 projects -- something Weathersby said the extra money from the Junior League should help with.

This year's grant applications are due by Oct. 15. Weathersby said a committee will review all applications by examining the project's impact, budget and need, among other criteria. Before reviewing, the teacher's name and school are removed from the application.

"It's anonymous," she said. "They just know the title of the project and its purpose."

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about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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