Her jaw dropped open in shock. Then the students seated around her in the school gymnasium erupted in screams and cheers. Katherine Watkins placed her hand over her heart. What had begun as a typical school assembly – or so, she thought – had become a ceremony in her honor.
Watkins, an 11th-grade English teacher at Millington Central, was awash in congratulatory hugs after receiving a $25,000 Milken Educator Award during an impromptu presentation at the high school in Memphis, Tennessee.
According to an article published on November 16, 2017, in USA TODAY NETWORK (WXIA), written by Jennifer Pignolet, The National Educator Award, is one of some 45 unrestricted grants delivered by the Milken Family Foundation annually to recognize teachers nationwide for their exemplary service. The foundation is one of thousands of funding sources that single out teachers like Watkins for their important contributions to education.
From the federal government to private companies and charities, these grants, fellowships and scholarships are typically awarded to teachers who are looking for ways to expand their instruction and engage their students, but find their ideas sometimes too expensive to implement.
Grantwatch.com provides a roundup of what grants, awards, funding opportunities, contests and prizes are available to educators from the government, corporations and private foundations. The user-friendly search engine posts new and unique grants daily and updates opportunities for instructors, administrators and nonprofit organizations in the learning community. On GrantWatch, educators can identify funding sources for anything that goes into helping students, classrooms, schools and communities to improve the quality of education.
"I encourage teachers to take initiative," said Libby Hikind, founder and CEO of Grantwatch. "Find the funding you need for your students and, if it is not available, crowdfund — of course, with the proper beaurocractic permissions."
During her tenure as a teacher, Hinkind wrote grants to gain support through the public school district for educational enhancements. The Tandy Corporation (Radio Shack) provided Hikind with her first award. On behalf of IS 68K in Brooklyn, she evaluated the Model 100 — one of the first tablets made available in the 1980s. Encouraged by her successful use of wordprocessing to teach special education students, Hikind continued writing grants leading up to a classroom full of Commodore 64s.
Watkins, meanwhile, is in her seventh year of teaching, her third at Millington Central. She teaches English to juniors and seniors including an Advanced Placement literature class. Unlike athletes and other celebrities, teachers like Watkins and others who make selfless commitments to help others, don't always receive the recognition they deserve.
Her students said Watkins invests her time in their academic and personal lives, and even arranged a Sunday movie day at the school after her literature class finished reading Charles Dickens novel Great Expectations.
“I think in order to be a truly great teacher, you have to be passionate about what you teach, and you have to have the ability to share that passion with others,” Watkins told the Memphis Commercial Appeal. "And for me, going out of my way, using my extra time to try to bring students into my way of seeing literature, is what that’s all about."
About the Author: Staff writer for GrantWatch.com