0

First-year teachers get relief with grants

Photo by Heather Middleton

Photo by Heather Middleton

By Johnny Jackson

jjackson@henryherald.com

The teaching profession is not all "cream and butter," said early childhood educator, Japhia McKibben, of Jackson, Ga.

McKibben explained there often are personal sacrifices made in the interest of students and their education. Among the sacrifices, is spending out-of-pocket for materials to use in the classroom.

"They do say you spend more money than you expect," said McKibben, a first-year, Georgia Pre-K teacher at Bright Star Learning Center at Tanger in Locust Grove.

McKibben was among 37 Georgia educators to receive a New Teacher Assistance Grant, awarded by Georgia Power, to some of the state's most promising first-year public school teachers.

The Albany State University graduate was awarded $1,000 in grant funding last month, to purchase items such as books, educational CDs or DVDs, computers, projectors, and other supplies to use in her classroom.

Georgia Power officials noted other grant recipients in the area include: Yolanda Phillips, a teacher at Rex Mill Middle School in Rex, Ga., and Donnell Cox, a teacher at Cowan Road Middle School in Griffin, Ga. Both Phillips and Cox are graduates of Clayton State University.

The recipients were nominated for the grant by their college professors. They were in the top 25 percentile of their classes, academically, and demonstrated a high aptitude for teaching, according to Kevin Fletcher, Georgia Power's vice president of Economic Development.

"Teacher retention continues to be a major issue in Georgia," Fletcher said. "As new teachers begin their careers, we have found that offering them incentives early on in their profession encourages them to continue helping to educate the future work force of Georgia."

The incentives program was established in 2004, he said.

"The average teacher spends approximately $500 out of his or her own pocket each year on classroom materials and supplies," added Fletcher. "This award helps ease this burden by allowing the teachers to purchase items to use in their classrooms as they see fit."

Award recipient, McKibben, said having the additional $1,000 to purchase classroom materials has relieved her of what might otherwise be a stressful first year of teaching.

McKibben plans to spend part of her grant on in-class treats and hands-on, interactive materials for her 4-year-old students at Bright Star Learning.

"I'm the type of person that loves to give, and this grant helps along those lines," McKibben said. "I want to inspire my kids, and help them grow. I want to give them that chance, and let them know they can do whatever they want to do -- whatever they have the drive for, and the heart for."