LISD Education Foundation hands out classroom grants

May 9, 2019

Elisha Lemelle had some splainin’ to do.

The eighth-grade science teacher at Liberty Middle School was the recipient of a grant for $1,071 for spectroscopy on April 29. More than a few in the room had a difficult time pronouncing the word much less spelling it. But unrattled by the sudden attention on her, she quickly described the science.

“Spectroscopy is a branch of science that allows me to use a light fixture with different tubes that are filled with various element gases. Each element gas emits a different light spectrum,” she said.

The students then use a spectrometer, also a part of the grant, to be able to view the light spectrum and identify what element is being shown to them based on the light it emits.

Why is it so important?

“They have to understand that scientists know what these distant galaxies and stars are made of and this is the science that supports that,” she said.

Infrared spectroscopy, for example, helps to identify the atoms and molecules in the object. The red shift or blue shift (Doppler Effect) in a spectral line tells how fast the object is receding from Earth or coming toward it.

But that’s not all the science accomplishes.

Lemelle said the science also applies to local oil and gas.

“A lot of the x-ray gadgets they will use to make sure the welds in the pipeline aren’t leaking, (to determine) what kind of metals are being used in the pipe and verify the weld of the pipe are compliant and match the metals,” she said.

The science for students to learn those skills and be able to apply them later in a job come from that class.

“Every element has a unique pattern that it emits,” she said.

Lemelle has been teaching science at Liberty Middle School for the last four years and is in her 10th year of teaching. She has applied for and earned four grants in those four years.

“It’s a little time-consuming but it’s worth it and it benefits our students so much,” she said.

Her first year she was awarded a grant for a SmartBoard, her second year a robotics program, and last year she received a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) grant for materials to create objects and stimulate critical thinking in the students.

“They created a motor boat, remote control car, a three-foot tall roller coaster, and even a door knob that was completely functional and made out of cardboard,” she laughed.

Lemelle has sought grants outside of the Foundation including Christy’s Wish Foundation to contribute to the enrichment of her students.

Last year there were 18 applicants and this year that number increased to 21.

Only nine of the applications were funded.

“It’s not that we don’t want to fund every idea because we do. We want to help as much as we can,” said Foundation coordinator Bruce Wright.

“We have to make a presentation to our donors. They want to know their donations are going toward items that are important for the education of children,” he explained.

On occasions, that means a grant didn’t get funded.

“It doesn’t mean that it was wrong, but just that another funding source for the project would be necessary.”

Wright pointed to Jennifer Callaway whose grant was turned down by the Foundation last year, but within four weeks was funded through a Go-Fund Me account.

“If we can’t do it, we hope teachers will go out and find a way to make it happen,” he said.

Wright said the bottom line with the grants was to make graduates of Liberty High School more marketable and with skills in all areas to be attractive to employers and college recruits.

“These grants are bigger than just the teachers who received them, but more about our students,” he said.

A trio of teachers at San Jacinto Elementary School received a grant for $2,052 for MakersSpace, a program to help their kindergarten students.

Tina Box, Haley Regian, and Barbara Ross share the grant and fostered the idea.

“We noticed our children don’t have enough time to explore. We started giving them paper to make blocks and it was amazing to see the things that they would build,” Box said.

On one occasion they gave the students play dough and popsicle sticks.

“They made building structures out of them, and one little girl made a cape, comb, and scissors out of some snap-together blocks. She was pretending to be a stylist and fix people’s hair,” the teacher said.

The scissors made a cutting motion and the comb was functional as well.

Box said she was impressed by the imaginations of five-year-olds.

“This will give them the ability to build a lot of things. The grant will give us the ability to buy more materials and do it on a wider scale,” she said.

This year’s grants totaled $9,137. Since 2007, the Foundation has given out $208,756.58 in grants to teachers. The funds are funded through Foundation events such as the Handbag Raffle and Liberty Freedom Ride as well as from endowments donated to the Foundation.

To assist the Foundation or to make a donation as a company, corporation, organization or individual, please contact Wright at 936-641-0367 or visit their website at libertyeducationfoundation.com.