LONGMEADOW – When William Griffin took over as the art teacher at Glenbrook Middle School last year, he volunteered his time to oversee an unfunded, after school art club.
“We didn’t have any money, so we used the dust on the floor and whatever else we could find for supplies,” he said.
This year, all that has changed thanks to a grant from the Longmeadow Educational Excellence Foundation (LEEF). With those grant funds, Griffin said he will be working with students on silk screening and textile printing. He hopes to eventually create and print all of the school’s t-shirts through the art club.
“It’s really exciting,” he said. “Art club would not have been the same without (the LEEF grant).”
For 2016, LEEF provided 27 grants totaling $63,490 during a ceremony held at Longmeadow High School on Oct. 5. Grants were awarded to teachers from all four Longmeadow schools for a wide variety of projects, including an adventure challenge course at the high school, a sensory lending library for all four schools, a VEX robotics program at Williams, a cello rack at Blueberry Hill, and makerspace materials at Wolf Swamp Road School.
Jay Therrien, president of LEEF, offered his thanks to Longmeadow teachers and administrators for their hard work and innovative programs, which he said add tremendous value to the students’ educational experience.
“We ask teachers to come up with their craziest ideas, break new ground,” he said. “We ask them to think about what they would do if money was not a barrier. We think our teachers do a terrific job giving our students the opportunity to strike out and find their voices.”
Superintendent of Schools Marty O’Shea praised LEEF for its long-time commitment to innovative programming.
“I understand the vital role LEEF plays in supporting enrichment and creativity for both teachers and students,” said O’Shea. “It provides an opportunity for teachers to pursue their passions, and for the kids to do the same.
“I am very appreciative of all LEEF has done over the years,” he added. “It serves as an incubator for the creativity we want to see in our classrooms.”
That level creativity is on display in Griffin’s art club, where students are able to express themselves and learn about art in a more relaxed environment. Rachel Schwartz, age 12, is one of the students at Glenbrook who joined art club this year. She said she enjoys participating in the club because she is able to work on new and different projects that go beyond what they learn in the classroom.
“I like that I get to be creative,” she said. “And Mr. Griffin is awesome. He is very creative and funny. He makes everything we do really fun.”
LEEF was formed to provide opportunities for innovative educational and enrichment programs beyond the tax-supported budget. Since its founding in 2001 by a group of dedicated parents, LEEF has funded over 330 teacher grant requests, totaling more than $1.2 million to Longmeadow Public Schools. LEEF maintains both a sustaining fund and a permanent endowment with the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts. The majority of the funds distributed by LEEF are raised through a phone-a-thon and direct mail appeal, as well as the organization’s annual gala. This year’s gala will be held on Saturday, Nov. 5.
– Article by Sarah Leete Tsitso