Teachers, staff members receive LEEF grants

Grants allow teachers to fund various clubs, organizations


Jack Densmore

The check that publications adviser Danielle Bell received. Many other teachers also received the grant.

by Jack Densmore, Editor-in-Chief

As the new school year began, teachers applied for Leander ISD Educational Excellence Foundation (LEEF) grants to give them funds for clubs, organizations and campus initiatives.

On September 18, the “LEEF Grant Patrol” traveled around the district all day to award teachers their grants, totaling an overall value of $15,660 for the school. Individual grants ranged from $2,500 to $5,000. Theatre tech teacher Mr. Chuck Harris, librarian Mrs. Sabrina Hyden, lead assistant principal Cynthia Bode, journalism teacher Mrs. Danielle Bell and English/AVID teacher Mrs. Kari Bjerke all received a grant. Mrs. Linda Major, theatre department chair, accepted the award on Mr. Harris’ behalf.

“I was super excited, but bummed because I couldn’t be there,” theatre arts teacher Chuck Harris said. “If I had known they were coming today, I would’ve made my daughter a different appointment, but I’m super excited. We raised a lot of money for the program this year. I’m just excited to see some things start to come together technically that we need to be the best.”

Hyden received $3,160 for mLISD, the campus technology initiative piloted last year that provides students with laptops. Bode also received a $2,500 grant for Growth Mindset, a program that provides new learning strategies for teachers and students. 

I was completely shocked.

— Danielle Bell

“[Growth Mindset] is about changing the belief that some kids have that they are born with a certain level of intelligence,” Bode said. “That’s not true. Anybody can learn anything at any time. That mindset comes through retraining of how they think and work. It’s about effort, it’s about perseverance, it’s about grit, it’s about determination, it’s about believing in themselves. That’s what we want. We did an experiment last fall in our math classrooms that with only 10 weeks of putting strategies these teachers, their kids mindsets grew. With this grant, imagine what we’ll be able to do, and we did that with no grant. We’re excited.”

Publications adviser and journalism teacher Danielle Bell also received a grant for the Youth and Government team, and the funds will be shared with the new YG program that is starting up at Vista Ridge High School. The grant of $2,500 will help with expenses the team incurs for transportation, registration, and other payments when the teams go to district and state competitions.

“I was completely shocked when they walked into my 2nd period class with a check and balloons,” Bell said. “I wasn’t expecting it at all so it made my day. We’re getting ready to start a new Youth and Government team this year, and after the success of last year, I’m excited to have a great team again, and we can really do a lot for our program and have more students involved this year. It’s really rewarding and exciting to see our pilot program change and grow into something really great for our school.”

AVID teacher Mrs. Bjerke also received a grant of $2,500 for the AVID program, which allows for more opportunities for scholarships for those students.

“We wrote a grant to LEEF for AVID just to get more money to help out our AVID program,” Bjerke said. “Some things we’re going to use the money towards are helping the kids with fee waivers for college applications, ACT and SAT tests, possibly putting together some scholarships for the AVID kids, being able to get some more classroom supplies for them to use and possibly helping them with some college visits.”

The theatre arts program received the largest grant of $5,000, which will be used to purchase more equipment for the technical theatre program.

“It’s going to allow us to teach lighting to a whole class of students at one time,” Harris said. “Then allow for feedback so the kids can plug their lighting software from their computers into the rig that I bought. It’s a miniature lighting rig, so we have miniature lights so we can aim and point. It allows our kids to practice lighting and their creativity on a smaller scale, but we can actually duplicate anything that we could do in the PAC or in the Little Theater, at a smaller scale.”

On the school’s official twitter, @LeanderHS, principal Tiffany Spicer tweeted “So proud of your hard work. The future is looking bright.”