Five Alabama teachers win Jenice Riley Memorial Scholarships

BIRMINGHAM – Alabama Humanities Foundation awarded Jenice Riley Memorial Scholarships to five teachers in Alabama to enhance studies at their schools.

The 2018 winners of $1,000 scholarships are: Tammy Brown, a sixth-grade teacher at Central School in Madison; Janet Leffard, a teacher at Olive J. Dodge Elementary School in Mobile; Karen S. Grimes, a librarian at Salem Elementary School in Orrville; and Jana Hadley and Wendy Turner, fourth-grade teachers at White Plains Elementary School in the Calhoun County School System.

In Madison, the award will enable Brown’s Social Studies students to develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills through the use of primary source materials and lockboxes. Through the “History Breakout Project,” students analyze documents and, in the process, learn to think with the mind of a historian, political scientist, economist or geographer.

As students explore clues in the documents, they examine connections to the people and events of the past, the continuity and change of events and learn how to distinguish fact from opinion. They also examine the impact of past actions and events on the future and present-day world views. The scholarship allows Brown to expand the project to create lessons in American History, while fostering teamwork and citizenship.

For Mobile’s Leffard, this marks the third time she has won the scholarship. She teaches gifted students in third, fourth and fifth grades at the school and also won in 2009 and 2013. This year, the funding was used for a project called “Colonial Times, The Constitution and Costumes.”

Since 2008, Dodge students have led a bell ringing at the school to celebrate the signing of the Constitution. In 2016, Dodge began city bell ringing at the USS Alabama, the World War II-era battleship that serves as a memorial to veterans. The ceremony helps instruct students on the three branches of government, enhances communication skills and knowledge of American history. The school’s third annual bell ringing was Sept. 17 of this year.

The funds were used to purchase Colonial-era costumes for the ceremony aboard the Alabama, aimed at instructing students on the Colonial and Revolutionary War periods, as well as the history of the Constitution. Students also developed a deeper understanding of American patriotism and national pride. The Riley scholarship was shared with other teachers and was expected to impact 1,000 students.

The $1,000 award will enable Salem Elementary to partner with the Black Belt Treasures Cultural Arts Center in Camden and allow the center’s best teaching artists to come to Salem Elementary and integrate history with the visual arts, literature and everyday life in their interactions with students.

The initiative will bring the history and culture of the Black Belt to life at the small Dallas County school. As a result, students will be exposed to the richness and diversity of the region’s heritage.

In the program, called “Making Our Way Through Black Belt History,” students will learn and be inspired by the work of some of the Black Belt’s best-known artists, including the work of the internationally-renowned quilters of Gee’s Bend, nationally-known folk artists Bill Traylor and Mose Tolliver, as well as study the work of critically-acclaimed three-dimensional artist Charlie Lucas.

With the scholarship award, White Plains Elementary’s Hadley and Turner will purchase Breakout EDU, a kit that includes physical hands-on and digital elements that transform questions in any content area into a fast-paced puzzle. Students work collaboratively and build critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Lessons can be based on literature, non-fiction texts, science, history, math or any subject that can be taught in the classroom.

Specifically, the pair will use “The Missing Dream – MLK Breakout” during a study of the Civil Rights movement of the mid-20th century. The story-like construct of the activity will make the events of that transformative period more personal for students. The breakout encourages collaboration, critical thinking and communication, as well as inquiry-based thinking and perseverance. The digital Breakout EDU can be used by all fourth-grade teachers at White Plains.

Created in memory of the late Jenice Riley, the scholarship recognizes educators who share her extraordinary commitment to enhancing the quality of education in Alabama. Daughter of former Alabama Governor and First Lady Bob and Patsy Riley, Jenice had a passion for teaching and fostered creativity and a desire to learn in her students. She encouraged parent involvement and actively promoted better educational programs in her community.

The $1,000 scholarship is awarded to K-6 educators in support of history and civics-related projects in their schools and classrooms. The award aids teachers in attending a conference, purchasing classroom materials, or creating programs that enhance students’ understanding of history and civics.