Reading specialist Jacqui Cebrian receives four Jeanie Ritchie Grants

by Linda Hubbard on November 4, 2020

Twenty one projects were funded for 2020-21 through the Jeanie Ritchie Grant program administered by the Menlo Park-Atherton Education Foundation. The grants enable teachers to pursue innovative teaching programs in their classroom, grade or school and provide educational experiences that students would otherwise not be able to have.

We wandered over to Oak Knoll School to catch up with reading specialist Jacqui Cebrian who led the pack, so to speak, with four grants. One, StoryWalks, can be seen on along a fence near the kindergarten playground.

“The plan is to expand the program to all the elementary schools, allowing us to stretch the useful life of the laminating plastic (for the environment),” Jacqui explained.  “Picture books will be shared in a way that is safe for multiple people of all ages to read.  Included are questions for families or classes to talk about.”

Jacqui’s second StoryWalk grant is for a set of permanent structures to put picture book pages in that will keep them safer from the elements and allow us to have a story kids can read while at recess – or classes can all visit together and talk about.

A third grant, The Anti-Racism Schoolwide Reads,  will use a collection of five5 picture books read between January and May in classrooms to facilitate conversations with students about systemic racism and what anit-racist action looks like.  “It will be tied to our school mission statement: Every Child an Exemplary Scholar, Valued Friend and Courageous Citizen,” said Jacqui.

The Mock Caldecott is the fourth grant, which is a repeat of a grant from last year. Students across multiple grades will dive into 12-15 of the best picture books from last year and engage in conversations with their peers about which is most deserving of a Caldecott Medal for the best illustrations in a book for young people.

“It is less about choosing a winner than it is about the critical analysis of how illustrations and stories connect to each other in creative ways,” said Jacqui.

The grant program began in 1984 to honor Jeanie Ritchie, one of MPAEF’s founders. Each year, teachers with unique teaching concepts prepare a comprehensive proposal and present their idea to the Jeanie Ritchie Grant committee who evaluate the proposal to see if it meets the program’s three key qualities of innovation, curriculum enhancement and sustainability.

And each year, the program grows.

In the first grant cycle during the 1984-1985 school year, 8 projects were funded with a total of $2,200.  This year (2020-2021), the 21 grant projects received over $39,000 in funding. See the full list online.

Photo by Linda Hubbard (c) 2020

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