Past Grant Award Winners

In just three years, Yorkville Educational Foundation has invested more than $10,000 in grant awards to support innovation. These sixteen projects have positively affected students in every school in District 115. If you are a District 115 employee seeking a grant, you can find more information here.


jennifer paletta - Yorkville middle school

Jenni and her team of five staff members want to create a café where staff members can buy coffee and treats.  Each sale has a big benefit for our students with Individual Education Plans who run the cafe. They get practical experience with subjects like math and art, as well as experience with job skills and social interactions outside a traditional classroom environment.  The team has created activities that tie into their current curriculum. Students will design a FOXES CAFE rewards card, tally orders, collect and manage money, prepare and deliver orders with assistance of the teachers group. These are skills that will serve them as they transition into adulthood as they learn how to become independent, resilient and successful. The $500 awarded to Jenni will go toward start up costs including coffee pots, aprons, cups and other supplies.

As a result of this grant, students in the ISP, STARS, SPL, and LASP programs will experience real-life situations that incorporate their IEP goals. Skills such as social interaction, eye contact, interpreting data, will be practiced daily as these students help build a strong YMS community.

Karen schmidt - Yorkville grade school

ELL Specialist Karen Schmidt reports that her ELL students love to talk in a small group, but sometimes are not confident speaking in their large classroom groups, for fear of making grammar mistakes. Karen applied for a grant because she wanted to encourage these students to practice speaking, listening, reading and writing. Her grant will cover the purchase of a touchscreen Chromebook, and headphones with a microphone so that her students can practice their speaking.

Earlier this year, Karen started a Padlet program where her ELL students record verbal/video responses to prompts and for responding with written feedback to the videos of others. With her new Chromebook, she will be able to pose a prompt to her students each week. Prompts will vary with such skills as comparing and contrasting, retelling, explaining/elaborating their personal experiences and making predictions.She will be able to listen to the responses and make mini-lessons to help them improve. 

While nothing beats that personal interaction, modeling and facial feedback for developing language that students get in small group, the reality is that technology is how the students are now assessed. The annual ACCESS test speaking portion is done by listening and then recording their response into a computer. She reports that even her most eloquent students score low on this part, because they do not elaborate enough or get nervous and do not have a live person encouraging and interacting with them.. These practice Padlet video prompts and responses are a way to combine the personal touch with the technology. 




YHS Principal David Travis knows that the better students perform on an SAT assessment, the more post-secondary opportunities they have. That’s why Yorkville High School developed their very own SAT preparation program. The program provides 21 hours of instruction to practice and prep experiences prior to sitting for the SAT exam in April.

The YEF grant provides partial or full scholarships for those families who do not have disposable funds to support their student’s pursuit of this program. The program has historically increased students SAT scores for all students who participate, but for economically disadvantaged and first generation students, it provides education equity. A good SAT performance can broaden choices, increase opportunities for financial support, and decrease students entering into remedial coursework in the post-secondary level.

Alexis Schilling - Grande Reserve Elementary School

Alexis Schilling, 3rd grade teacher at Grande Reserve Elementary, knows that offering student choice is one of the most important ways to boost student learning. That’s why she asked for a grant that will provide her flexible seating choices for her students. Flexible classrooms produce higher academic outcomes while including comfort, community and collaboration. She anticipates seeing students empowered through choice and movement, and studies show that that this empowerment elevates student engagement.

She says “If we can simply start with the choice of seating, I believe that it will help my students increase motivation. I have a wide variety of learners in my room and I would love to be able to provide them any opportunity to help their academic skills grow.”

Congratulations Alexis! We can't wait to see your improved classroom environment.

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Reading specialist Lisa Snyder has a passion for literacy. Her grant application told us about her students, most of them low income, who don't have a reading library at home. Her wish is simple: to provide them with one book each quarter that they can take home with them. Her $500 grant will provide her with enough funding to provide one free book to all 86 of her students for this quarter.

Lisa’s classroom is filled with reading strategies for her students, including bookmarks that help them with tricky words and reading comprehension reminders. Lisa even created a logo for her room so that her students know where to find her, along with her extensive library of high quality free books.

Mrs. Snyder tells us that she wants students to have the ownership of choosing their own books. “(I want) to encourage independent reading at home by giving them their own books & to give them the encouragement, confidence and ownership of their own reading. This program will give them a positive image of reading and improve their reading scores overall. This increases their chance of a successful academic school career & future beyond Yorkville.“


Brittany, a literacy coach at Circle Center Grade School, applied for a grant to create technology recording stations. These are tubs that are lined with foam to cancel out background noise and fun telephones that plug into tablets and Chromebooks that are used to speak and listen into. Brittany will push into classrooms to model and provide mini lessons for how to use student portfolio apps such as Seesaw and Class Dojo to record student literacy work with these recording stations.She envisions CCGS students recording themselves reading a book for reading fluency practice or they can record themselves reading a finished writing piece.

These stations are engaging and get students excited to share their work with their teacher and the portfolios can also be sent home for parent access. After teachers receive professional development on how to utilize the recording stations they will be able to check these recording stations out from our school library to use. She can’t wait to incorporate these recordings to make student literacy portfolios more effective, motivating, and engaging for students, staff and parents.

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abby paulson - yorkville intermediate school

Learning Behavior Specialist Abby Paulson loves using the Seesaw app with her students. It is a student driven portfolio that can stay with students over many years to quantify and measure growth in nearly every subject. When it came to applying for a grant, Abby wanted to take it to the next level with a Seesaw Plus license. Seesaw Plus allows her to record her formative assessments in a straightforward manner. It allows her to easily differentiate instruction, build on student strengths, encourage creativity, and use critical thinking skills.

Seesaw Plus allows kids to save and submit a variety of work through the app: videos, photos, text, and drawings. Students can reflect on their work in writing or with a voice recording when they submit it, and as a teacher, Abby, can offer feedback as well. Abby reports that she can approve items to make them accessible to parents. This is an important way to open dialogue and enhance communication with parents. Congratulations Aby!

he fall 2017 grant recipients were:

  • Bristol Grade School - Bristol SQUAD Service-learning field experience. The second graders at BGS went on a field trip to four different locations so that they could learn about ways to help the environment. They visited Groot Industries in Plano to see how the garbage and recycling is processed; they visited the Yorkville-Bristol Sanitary District for a tour to hear about how we treat and protect our water; and they visited Midwest Companies to learn about composting, and how it helps the environment. They finished up their day by picking up Beecher Park and collecting trash from around the YHS stadium. Second grade teachers Nicole Baum, Blake Hafenrichter and Katherine Strauss applied for this grant because it helps students develop real life problem-solving through experiential learning.

  • Yorkville Grade School - Annual Battle of the Books. Stephanie McHugh, Library Media Specialist at both Bristol Grade School and Yorkville Grade chose 20 books for her 3rd grade students to read from a variety of genres and reading levels. The selection includes current Illinois Monarch nominees, Illinois Bluestem nominees, and “librarian choice” books. Students form teams of 3-5 players, read these books and then have discussions focused on plot, characters and setttings. At the end of the year, they compete in trivia battle based on these 20 books and a winner is chosen. Each year, Mrs. McHugh says she look forward to the enthusiasm and discussions about these 20 books, as well as the growth in their abilities to work as a team. This initiative that promotes collaboration & communication, a little bit of friendly competition, and most importantly, reading!

  • Circle Center Grade School - Mentor Books to enrich writing curriculum. Karen Finn and Kim Minkler were able to purchase six new books that helped improve student writing for their group of diverse learners. Using these books, they were also able to hold a professional development session for CCGS staff members on how to incorporate these text into their writing instruction lessons. Mrs. Minkler told us that “the mentor texts have allowed me to help my resource students make connections, hear examples, and have been used as enrichment for our pre-writing mini-lessons. They have been a valuable resource in my classroom.”

  • Yorkville Intermediate School: HOPS Executive Functioning program. Lindsay Peabody, Special Education teacher at YIS is working to implement the Homework, Organization, and Planning Skills (HOPS) program in her resource classes. The program uses positive reinforcement to teach students executive functioning skills, such as how to stay organized, manage time, and plan ahead. Being able to give them step-by-step directions to teach and reinforce these skills is key to them becoming more independent not only in the classroom but also in the real world. As a result of the grant, the special education program at YIS is able to implement an evidence-based curriculum that teaches executive functioning skills.

  • Autumn Creek Elementary - Smart Music software licenses. Band teacher Tom Shuman faced a larger than expected interest in band in 2017 and needed to purchase additional licenses for a tool called Smart Music. This cloud-based software allows students to record themselves and upload their performance from their Chromebooks as they practice their instruments. They are able to receive immediate feedback from their teacher, and even individualized assignments. Students are able to work on the assessments at their own pace while attempting as many times as they need in order to achieve mastery, which aligns with the districts new grading policy.

  • Bristol Bay Elementary - nonfiction reading kit for individualized assessments. Literacy Coach Kelly Bachewicz wanted to purchase this kit to create personalized learning opportunities for her students. Teachers are able to to assess individual student comprehension so that they can pinpoint individual student needs. She reports that “By utilizing a targeted assessment system, teachers can design high-quality lessons to assist students with their individual areas of need.

  • Grande Reserve Elementary School - Friendly Loom. Lindsey Moss wanted to purchase a friendly loom for her art students to give them a much need experiential activity. Weaving improves fine motor skills, dexterity, and helps students understand the application of patterns in the world around us. Since individual weaving projects can be very time-consuming, collaborative weaving is a great alternative that can be displayed in the art room and throughout the school. Lindsey reported that her students found the weaving process simultaneously engaging and calming. “It has been a beautiful and welcome addition to my classroom. Even better, the loom has a way of capturing interest from groups of students that I never would have expected”

  • Yorkville Middle School - energy and motion science lab kits. Middle school science teacher Megan Johnson was able to purchase several of these lab kits to enhance experiential learning for her 7th graders. She reported that these lab kits were perfect because they were easy to set up. Students loved getting to work fast, rather than spending lab time setting up. The complete motion lab let them quickly get to the task of collecting and analyzing data. The ramp for the Energy and Motion Lab adjusts to 10, 20, and 30-degree angles, so students were able to use the same equipment to explore velocity, acceleration, gravity, kinetic energy and friction. “The students had a lot of fun using the ramps and were able to reflect on this activity during our outcome assessment. I think the use of the ramps allowed the students to make connections easier since they were using something they are familiar with.”

  • Yorkville High School - SAT prep scholarships for eligible students. YHS Associate Principal Christine Warren knows that the better students perform on an SAT assessment, the more post-secondary opportunities they have. That’s why Yorkville High School developed their very own ACT/SAT preparation program. She applied for the grant because she wants to make sure that all 11th grade students have access to this great opportunity, regardless of their family's financial situation. Through the grant, YHS provided six scholarships to students who were not able to afford the $130 registration fee.