Credit union awards grant money to local teachers

Kaufman elementary school teachers Amy Gardner and Melissa Ramierez received $1,000 grants from RelyOn Credit Union as part of the company’s new Classroom Scholarship program. Pictured from left to right are relationship specialist, Terri Craine, Nash Elementary RTI teacher Amy Gardner, RelyOn employee Nay Stevenson, Phillips Elementary RTI teacher Melissa Ramirez, RelyOn employee Wendy Arbanas, and RelyOn branch manager Greg Goebel.

Three Kaufman County teachers are among the first recipients of RelyOn Credit Union’s first annual Classroom Scholarship.

Two of the winning teachers, Amy Gardner and Melissa Ramirez are Kaufman ISD elementary school teachers while the third, Krystle McFarlin, is a kindergarten teacher at Barbara Walker Elementary in Crandall. Each teacher received a $1,000 grant for classroom funds.

Gardner is a Response to Intervention (RTI) teacher at Nash Elementary. According to Gardner, RTI classes involve “children on the same reading levels needing extra help to get to the reading level he or she needs to be on before going to the next grade.” Gardner will be using her grant money to purchase a new bookshelf for all of her curriculum as well as additional curriculum lessons that she wishes to utilize.

Ramirez is also an RTI teacher who teaches students at Phillips Elementary. She plans to use her grant to “help each student have the necessary supplies from school.”

Observing the difficulty some kindergarten students have with sitting still for eight hours a day, McFarlin plans to purchase flexible seating options for her classroom at Barbara Walker Elementary in Crandall.

“Flexible seating allows the students to move around and get their wiggles out right there at their own work area,” McFarlin said.

RelyOn CEO Sarah Spooner said that the goal of the credit union’s new Classroom Scholarship program is to provide teachers who have accounts at RelyOn the opportunity to supplement their classroom with funds that they might not receive otherwise.

“Every teacher I’ve spoken to has said that they use their own funds to purchase supplies for their classroom,” Spooner said. “We saw a need in our local community and while we would love to give every teacher $1,000, we wanted to help as much as we could.”

Applicants for the Classroom Scholarship were prompted to describe their background and current classroom situation and how they would use the $1,000 if selected.

“We had our work cut out for us with so many applicants that were well deserving,” RelyOn board member Carolyn Mize said.

“Teachers in our local communities go above and beyond and they should get the support they need, Chief Operations Officer for RelyOn Tony LaTour said. “We’re excited to provide the Classroom Scholarship to this year’s winners and look forward to doing so again next year.”

RelyOn plans to offer the Classroom Scholarship next year as well in addition to partnering with individual Kaufman County schools to create “Student Run Branches.” In a statement, RelyOn says that the goal for these branches is to “equip students with life skills relevant to personal money management and support the curriculum teachings of math and banking.”

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