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Education | Gank Family Mini Grants

The Ganek Family Student Teacher Mini Grants for Innovation in Education

Ganek Family Student Teacher Mini Grants were created to provide an opportunity to American University Student Teachers to test out new methodologies and innovative lesson ideas with their cooperating teachers in DC area classrooms. The program is sponsored by American University supervisor and clinical faculty member, Lynne Brenner Ganek. Professor Ganek developed this program in 2007, based on her dedication to the tradition of inspiring student teachers to create exciting learning experiences for their students.

The purpose of the program Ganek Family Student Teacher Mini Grants is to foster and support student teachers in the development of inventive classroom activities, lessons, projects, and experiments. The grants are designed to enable student teachers to explore new methodologies and experiment with activities and lessons while under the supervision of cooperating teachers in local schools. Mini grants are awarded every fall and spring semester to student teachers who promote academic excellence and design exciting learning experiences which meet curriculum standards.

For more information about applying for Ganek Family Student Teacher Mini Grants download the application here (PDF).


Spring 2016 Award Recipients

Caroline Calhoun Ganek

Caroline Calhoun, K12 Education: Studio Art
Horace Mann Elementary School

With the support of the Ganek Family we were able to introduce a new medium of art to the Horace Mann students, their enthusiasm in learning this new skill of mosaic has been a joy to be apart of. We started the project many months ago with research and test mosaics in the art studio, by spring the students had really mastered the basics of mosaics and were ready to design and plan for their own. After choosing a personal object to include in their design the students shared the meaning behind each piece and brainstormed the best ways to highlight their objects and also compliment their fellow classmates’ work. Together they chose a common shape and color scheme for their work. All 55 of the graduating fifth grade students have installed their personal mosaic to the "Welcome Wall". This wall will continue to grow with each graduating class, while working on the project with the fifth graders many other students in the school were eager to complete the project when they are in the 5th grade and have already began thinking of what special personal object they wanted to include in the wall!

Grant Conway Ganek

Grant Conway, Secondary Education: Math
Alice Deal Middle School

Within the trigonometry unit, students were expected to apply trigonometric ratios, the Pythagorean Theorem, and the Law of Sines to solve unknown measurements in triangles. In other to convey the real-world application of these geometric methods, students were immersed into a inquiry-based project that sought to measure the height of objects and buildings in their own community. With grant funding, each student received an architectural drafting kit: scientific calculator, measuring tape, geometric charting tools, personal inclinometer, and charting paper. Using their tools, mathematical processes, and geometric technology, students calculated the heights of different buildings and objects within their community. As an extension, students were expected to reflect on potential sources of error in their calculations and the reliability of calculator technology and charting tools. Finally, students presented their findings and expressed the cultural and mathematical relevance of different objects' heights.

Mary Kate Landis Ganek

Mary Kate Landis, K12 Education: Studio Art
Oyster Adams Bilingual School

Fourth and Fifth graders at Oyster Adams Bilingual School are learning a variety of jewelry making techniques through a jewelry club started by American University student teacher, Kate Landis. The club, consisting of 6 fifth graders and 5 fourth graders, meets once a week. Each student has completed their first project: a simple beaded bracelet with a clasp. Their next project will be a pair of wire wrapped earrings. Other projects will include a wrap bracelet and a wire wrapped gem stone pendant. Students will photograph each of their pieces to create their own portfolio that showcases their handmade jewelry. Landis hopes that students will "use these techniques to pursue a passion of making functional, wearable art beyond the club."

Spring 2013 Grant Recipients

EL Haynes Classroom of Cassandra Becker, Spring 2013 Ganek Award winner.

Cassandra Becker, Secondary Education: Math
EL Haynes High School, Washington, DC

Ms. Becker used her grant money to purchase bridge building kits for her geometry students at EL Haynes High School. This group of students was taking geometry for the third time and needed a hands-on project to excite them. Students first learned about different bridges and bridge structures. Next they built straw bridges. Students then used bridge design software to create and test virtual bridges. Upon selecting a design, students made blueprints and used model bridge kits to build their bridges.

Amber Owens, Special Education
Thurgood Marshall Academy, Washington, DC

The "Electronic Math Interventions for Algebra II" project was aimed at increasing the procedural knowledge of high school student identified as having a mathematical deficiency as outlined in federal special education protocol, using technology as an intervention method. The project ran 4-6 weeks within the academic environment at Thurgood Marshall Academy. Three students received interventions during this project period.

Ariel Villano, Elementary Education

Ms. Villano and her cooperating teacher observed that many of their students were either homeless, had an incarcerated parent, or both, and were not learning many of these skills at home. In their school, located in southeast D.C., 99 percent of students qualify for free and reduced meals, an indicator of poverty. Ms. Villano decided to apply for the Ganek Grant to create an emotional health and life skills curriculum to help students think about some of these issues to which they may not otherwise be exposed.

Gabriel Webster, winner of the Ganek Award in Spring 2013

Gabriel Webster, Secondary Education: Math
Thurgood Marshall Academy, Washington, DC

Geometry students at Thurgood Marshall Academy learned the applications of geometry through an exploration of the schoolyard garden. Students learned about area, perimeter, surface area and volume in the context of designing and maintaining a real-life garden. They explored the importance of math by calculating the volume of soil and compost required to fill garden beds, the length of a perimeter fence, estimating the area of a curved garden bed, planning seed rows and more. Students used these calculations to determine the quantity of materials needed and assess the cost of maintaining the garden. Finally, they designed their own garden, picking which seeds to plant and researching recipes for healthy meals using their chosen ingredients. Using the Ganek grant, the students were able to put their work into practice by rebuilding the garden and planting new crops to be harvested.

Spring 2012 Grant Recipients

Rebecca Baltare, Special Education
The Lab School of Washington

Ms. Baltare’s project was to design and establish a garden at the Lab School of Washington’s elementary campus. She envisioned this garden as a space for students to connect to the natural world while building cooperative learning skills.  Students were asked to envision and map a possible plan for the school garden. Student input was encouraged as a way to share ownership and increase motivation. During the fall, students worked to build raised beds, fill them with soil, and plant a cover crop for the winter in order to prepare the garden for work in the spring. The ultimate goals for the school garden are to equip students with food/garden knowledge and skills, as well as to infuse a garden curriculum across all disciplines.

Rebecca Dunn, Secondary Education: Math
Benjamin Banneker Academic High School, Washington, DC

Inspired by her cooperating teacher, Mr. John Mahoney, Ms. Dunn became interested in effectively using technology in her classroom as a means of promoting and enhancing high school math curriculum.  During her student teaching experience, Ms. Dunn saw first-hand how incorporating technology facilitates learning and gets students excited and enthusiastic about their education. She will use her grant money to purchase a document camera for her classroom. The document camera captures a stream of video of any item placed below the camera lens and projects the image onto the white board. The camera can be used to display student work and to reproduce complex images and graphs – saving class time and providing an opportunity to praise exceptional student work.

Alicia Garfinkel, Elementary and Early Childhood Education
Key Elementary School, Washington, DC

Ms. Garfinkel intends to use her grant to purchase supplies that will enrich students’ learning experiences during a cross-curriculum, five-day unit on the Incas. During the unit, students will have the opportunity to produce examples of literature, art, and architecture that represent the ancient Inca population. Students will create clay models, weavings, and costumes, among many other crafts. On the last day of the planned unit, a culminating activity called an “Inca Celebration” will allow students time to showcase their work for classmates, families and teachers at the school.

Emily Johnston, Special Education
The Lab School of Washington

Ms. Johnson’s students have been learning about ancient cultures and the corresponding mythologies and folklore about these cultures. To further incorporate an artistic multi-sensory and cross-curricular approach to this unit, Ms. Johnson has created a project to have each student produce a mythology quilt. Student groups will explore mythology and folklore from ancient Greek, Chinese, Egyptian cultures. They will then buy, measure, and cut material into 4x4 squares, upon which they will illustrate their mythological scene. The quilts will then be displayed and parents will be invited for a culminating activity.

Lina Schneider, Elementary Education
Stoddert Elementary School, Washington, DC

Two years ago, Stoddert Elementary School built a garden on school grounds. Ms. Schneider intends to use her grant towards incorporating the garden and the basics of gardening into her 2nd graders’ science curriculum. Her goal is to foster an appreciation of gardening and nature by having students plant and care for seeds, observe their growth, and enjoy their harvest. In addition to addressing science standards, the garden project will also incorporate math (measuring plant growth, charting and graphing the growth, measuring the distance between plants when transplanting to the garden, recipes); art (drawing the plants at different stages, drawing a diagram/plan of the garden); and health (growing food, healthy diet, physical activity, recipes).

Spring 2011 Grant Recipients

Sasha Bloch, ESOL
Bell Multicultural High School, Washington, DC

Ms. Bloch's ninth grade ESL English class is reading Frankenstein; this unit will serve as an opportunity for students to increase their vocabulary, explore literary concepts, and make connections to their own life.  In order to further her student's understanding of the novel, she plans to use the grant money to help the class attend the Shakespeare Theatre Company's production of Frankenstein.

Tonia Luk, Elementary Education
Horace Mann Elementary School, Washington, DC

Ms. Luk's fourth grade class will be recreating Colonial Williamsburg.  Each student will research, learn, dress, and act in the role that they choose and present their knowledge to other students, parents, and staff during Colonial Horace Mann Day. The grant money will be used to purchase the costume supplies for the presentation.

Kristen Luppino, Early Childhood Education
Bright Beginnings, Washington, DC

Ms. Luppino will be using her grant money to purchase various sensory tools for her pre-kindergarten class at Bright Beginnings. Many of her students struggle with core muscle strength and an inability to maintain their focus.  These tools will assist the children in improving their ability to focus and will help teach them how to support themselves, a focus of the curriculum at Bright Beginnings.

Lorrette Van Rensburg, Elementary Education
Janney Elementary School, Washington, DC

Ms. Van Rensburg's second grade classroom will be exploring basic measuring skills as a part of their mathematics unit.  The grant money will be used to purchase a plethora of measuring supplies for three projects that will test the students' knowledge of these measuring skills.

Fall 2010 Grant Recipient

Emily Johnston, Elementary Education
Brent Elementary School, Washington DC

Ms. Johnston's third grade students produced a Chinese cookbook which has been integrated into their year long project on Chinese opera.  The students were placed in small cooperative groups where each group was responsible to generate their own recipe using the guide of a mentor recipe. The funds were used to produce fifty copies of the cookbook, as well as purchase groceries for the cookbook release party.

Spring 2010 Grant Recipients

Joseph Grimme, Performing Arts
Wilson Senior High School, Washington DC

Mr. Grimme wants his choir students to be award winning performers. For his project, he proposes to have students record and listening to their voices twice a week and also film themselves performing. He will use the grant funds to purchase digital voice recorders and a camcorder to make this possible.

Ayo Heinegg, Secondary Social Studies
Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School, Washington DC

Ms. Heinegg is using her grant to provide funds for her students' Senior Advocacy Projects. The students have received training in advocacy and community organizing and have been required to design a project that supports a public policy stance they have researched and defended. To help them complete their project, the grant funds will be made available as micro-grants to students who submit convincing applications.

Laura Wood, Secondary Social Studies
Cesar Chavez Public Charter High School, Washington DC

Ms. Wood is using her grant to evaluate and support her students' Senior Advocacy Projects. Students will work off campus with local non-profit organizations to complete their projects. Part of the funds will be used to purchase metro cards for transportation to project sites. Ms. Wood is also purchasing a flip camera as she plans to interview students before and after their projects and create a video report from which stakeholders may assess how the projects affect students' sense of empowerment and agency.

Spring 2009 Grant Recipient

Sarah Nemati, MAT, Secondary Education: Biology (2009)
Alice Deal Middle School, 7nd Grade Life Science, Washington, DC
Cooperating Teacher: Ms. Elyse Lerum

Ms. Nemati designed a forensic unit for her students. Students learned how forensic scientists use evidence to build a case. The project involved students in writing creative crime stories in which they cast family and friends, researching the characteristics of the evidence they wanted in their crime scenes (i.e., soil, glass, hair, fiber, DNA, skeletal remains, eyewitness testimony), and analyzing how evidence leads to the conviction of a crime. Students used Wikispace to synthesize and display their cases for other students to solve. The grant funds were used to buy Insignia digital cameras for photographing the evidence, witnesses, suspects, and the culprit

Fall 2008 Grant Recipient

Kira Sonberg, BA Elementary Education (2008)
Janney Elementary School, 2nd Grade, Washington, DC
Cooperating Teacher: Ms. Shana Zallman

Ms. Sonberg created Z-ville, a mock community, in Shana Zallman’s second grade classroom at Janney Elementary School. The idea is attributed to Jennifer Miller, a fellow second grade teacher at Janney who has experienced a lot of success with her own “Millertown.” The students created a connected classroom community that they were responsible for running. Students took on classroom jobs that mirrored jobs in a real community such as running a post office, the Z-ville store and the Z-ville bank. They completed their jobs with pride because they learned the affect those jobs had on the well-being of the classroom. Students also experienced the Washington D.C community as the classroom was visited by real workers who have the same jobs as those in Z-ville. Students met police officers, firefighters, the American University eagle, a crossing guard, and other individuals who are important to the Janney School community. Through their exchange of “money”, students developed financial responsibility as they worked to be paid, paid classroom expenses, and then decided whether to spend or save their money. Students experienced the real world within their classroom community in a fun and exciting way. Ms. Zallman was so excited about Z-ville that she plans to continue the project in the future.


Spring 2008 Grant Recipients

Tom Bishop, MA International Training and Education, Graduate Certificate in Secondary Teaching, Social Studies (2008)
Ballou Senior High School, Washington DC

Mr. Bishop used “Bishop Bucks” to encourage good behavior, class attendance and class participation and discourage disruptive behavior in his class at Ballou Senior High School in Southeast, D.C. Students earned Bishop Bucks for good behavior, which they were able to use towards rewards like apples, granola bars, candy or a pizza party. Students were fined between 1 and 10 Bishop Bucks for disruptive behavior or poor attendance.

Ghana Classroom Market

Ariella Brodecki, BA Elementary Ed (2008)
Burning Tree ES, 3rd Grade, Bethesda, MD
Cooperating Teacher: Ms. Michelle Soriton

Ms. Brodecki taught 93 third grade students at Burning Tree Elementary School in Bethesda, Maryland about business and the cultures of the world. The entire third grade was split into groups—each group representing different countries within different continents—and was asked to research, plan, budget, manage, market and sell products in a world market. The project culminated in a “world market bazaar” with second grade students serving as the consumers.


Alison Clark, BA Secondary Education, Mathematics (2008)
Paul Public Charter School, 7th Grade, Washington, DC
Cooperating Teacher: Ms. Mia Abeles

Ms. Clark has found an engaging way to teach math to 7th grade students at Paul Public Charter School in Northwest, D.C. Students will learn songs to help them remember methods for solving different types of math problems. Integrating mathematics and the arts, students will create study guides by making CD versions of the songs and lyrics guides. Students will also track their use of the memory aides during tests and analyze how often remembering the songs allowed them to answer questions correctly.


Hilarie Shanley, MAT Elementary Education (2008)
Key Elementary School, 4th Grade, Washington, DC

Cooperating Teacher: Ms. Gwen Foster

Ms. Shanley created a school newspaper for students in grades 2-5 at Key Elementary School in Northwest, D.C. Students were given a chance to find their talent and use it towards the school’s paper as a writer, cartoonist, reporter, editor, columnist, manager or layout/production team member. The paper allowed the students to find an outlet for a variety of different talents and was sent home to give parents a glimpse into what is going on at the school.


Fall 2007 Grant Recipient

Usha Chidamber, MAT Elementary Education (2007)
Burning Tree Elementary School, 3rd Grade, Bethesda, MD
Cooperating Teacher: Mrs. Kara Borg

Ms. Chidamber's project provided the opportunity for third graders to work collaboratively to investigate an authentic scientific phenomenon and served 23 students in third grade at Burning Tree Elementary School in Bethesda, Maryland. The objective of the project was to enhance and deepen their comprehension of Plant Life Cycle and Growth (from seed to fruit) through a hands-on approach, and implement scientific procedures—observation, recording, interpretation, and prediction—through experimenting. The goal was also to build neural connections by contextualizing scientific theory with real-world experience. Additionally the project design drew on the talent of a local farmer and environmentalist who provided guidance and knowledge to the students, and helped cement community relations.

Lynne Ganek, a professor in the School of Education, Teaching, and Health at the College of Arts and Sciences, with two awardees of the The Ganek Family Student Teacher Mini Grants for Innovation in Education.

Lynne Ganek with winners Arielle Brodecki and Usha Chidamber

Ganek Mini Grant Winners

Spring 2016

Caroline Calhoun, K12 Education: Studio Art
Grant Conway, Secondary Education: Math
Mary Kate Landis, Elementary Education


Spring 2013

Cassandra Becker, Secondary Education: Math
Amber Owens, Special Education
Ariel Villano, Elementary Education
Gabriel Webster, Secondary Education: Math


Spring 2012

Rebecca Baltare, Special Education
Rebecca Dunn, Secondary Education: Math
Alicia Garfinkel, Elementary and Early Childhood Education
Emily Johnston, Special Education
Lina Schneider, Elementary Education


Spring 2011

Tonia Luk, Elementary Education
Kristen Luppino, Early Childhood Education
Lorrette Van Rensburg, Elementary Education


Fall 2010

Emily Johnston, Elementary Education


Spring 2010

Joseph Grimme, Performing Arts
Ayo Heinegg, Secondary Education: Social Studies
Laura Wood, Secondary Education: Social Studies


Spring 2009

Sara Nemati, Secondary Education: Biology


Fall 2008

Kira Sonberg, Elementary Education


Spring 2008

Tom Bishop, Secondary Education: English
Ariella Brodecki, Elementary Education
Alison Clark, Secondary Education: Mathematics
Hilarie Shanley, Elementary Education


Fall 2007 (inaugural semester)

Usha Chidamber, MAT Elementary Education (2007)