“As educators and adults, we must help children use their imagination, be playful, critical thinkers, self advocates, and educated consumers,” says School of Education, Teaching and Health Professor Lynne Brenner Ganek. “It is imperative in these difficult financial/political times that we teach children to solve problems and enable them to make bold decisions. We must also encourage them to dream, and dream big.”
In 1978, student teacher Lynne Brenner Ganek brought a television into her classroom to teach reading skills; using television as a teaching tool was an unheard of practice at the time. Her experience using TV as a student teacher brought her to PBS as one of the creators and writers of the groundbreaking educational children’s program, Reading Rainbow. Throughout its 23 years on the air, Reading Rainbow won a Peabody Award and 26 Emmys, 10 for "Outstanding Children's Series." The spark of inspiration to use television in a single classroom ignited a television education revolution.
Professor Ganek launched her work with American University as a supervisor for student teachers in the School of Education, Teaching and Health (SETH) program; returning to mentor young teachers, who, like herself, sought to transform the classroom curriculum. It was a mini-grant in 1978 that allowed Ganek to introduce television into her classroom, and she wanted to provide AU student teachers with the same opportunity.
"After gaining some experience as a university supervisor, it occurred to me that it could be magical to give fresh teachers encouragement, creative freedom, and some financial backing to design innovative curriculum in their classrooms," she says.
In 1988, Ganek and her husband, Jeffrey, created the Ganek Family Mini Grant for Innovation in Education, supporting student teachers who seek to transform the way teachers teach. As a faculty member in the SETH program, Ganek strives to raise the bar in teacher education at AU, creating one of the finest training facilities for new educators.
“The grants challenge AU student teachers to think outside traditional teaching methods and find new techniques, providing academic and financial support to the next generation of educators,” says Ganek.
Awarded during both the spring and fall semesters, Ganek Family Mini Grants provide funds for AU student-teachers to try new methods in the classroom. These projects range from third graders creating a world market bazaar to elementary school students establishing a school newspaper.