AMS receives sizeable grant from TEA

AMS receives sizeable grant from TEA
Posted on 11/26/2018
AMS receives sizeable grant from TEA

AMS plans creative uses for grant funds


By Toni Garrard Clay

AISD Communications Coordinator


Students at Athens Middle School will be sitting pretty when they return from Christmas break this year. They could also be sitting on a balance ball or a sofa or a wobble seat or bungee chair. And if they’re tired of sitting, some of them may choose standing desks.


Flexible seating is being purchased thanks to a $232,000 grant awarded to the middle school by the Texas Education Agency. Half of that goes to a consulting firm matched to the campus by the grant requirements. The firm specializes in social-emotional learning and will have a presence on campus. The remaining $116,000 will be spent primarily — though not entirely — on non-traditional classroom seating.


“We want to foster a trusting relationship between staff and student,” said AMS Principal Jennifer Risinger. “The differentiated seating areas will provide a sense of ownership in the classroom when students are given a choice of how they learn best.”


Risinger cited a study from the University of Minnesota that found students with collaborative group seating participated 48 percent more in discussions than students in traditional lecture-style seating.


“Flexible seating allows students to quickly and easily pair up, work with small groups and participate in class discussions, without moving around heavy desks to establish eye contact,” said Risinger.


Among the other uses for the grant funds, emphasis will continue to be placed on social-emotional learning, stipends will be added for mentor teachers across core subjects and for club and organization leaders, and it will fund mindfulness training for staff. Funds will also be used to purchase books to establish monthly student book studies. The book topics will address a different character trait each month in a way that helps students learn how to apply social-emotional learning to their daily lives.


In addition, AMS will create technology-based independent reading libraries giving students access to a variety of high-interest reading material such as graphic novels, anthologies and current events. The texts can be accessed in the classroom, as well as the campus library, in order to increase reading opportunities across campus.


“Our goal ultimately is not only to enhance the love of learning through comfortable student environments,” said Risinger, “but to teach them invaluable coping skills so they can thrive as adults.”


Risinger credits the administrative team at the middle school for writing a successful grant proposal. They are assistant principals Kendra Hensley and Tony Sikes, counselors Maureen Bogowitz and Tami Mason, and instructional coach Audrey Marshall.

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