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updated: 12/1/2011 3:49 PM

Dist. 128 teachers receive grants for high-tech programs

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  • Libertyville High School chemistry teacher Sherri Rukes, left, works with students Kathleen Morris, Jessica White, Stephanie Hanagan and Aasimah Tanveer on Thursday. Rukes will receive grants to pursue three innovative programs.

       Libertyville High School chemistry teacher Sherri Rukes, left, works with students Kathleen Morris, Jessica White, Stephanie Hanagan and Aasimah Tanveer on Thursday. Rukes will receive grants to pursue three innovative programs.
    Russell Lissau | Staff Photographer

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Ten innovative projects proposed by teachers at Libertyville and Vernon Hills high schools will receive grant funding from a local community foundation.

The classroom efforts, many of which involve the use of iPad tablets, will share $20,438. The money comes from The District 128 Foundation for Learning, an autonomous, nonprofit group formed in 2007 that supports creative educational programs and activities at the two schools.

"It provides (students) with a potential learning experience that they have not had before," said Scott Luce, a Libertyville resident who serves as the foundation's vice chairman of projects.

The latest recipients from Libertyville High School are:

• Catherine Marcell, who wants to implement a program to help teens with disabilities work on skills that will help them in academic, social and emotional areas.

• Lynda Ward, who proposed using iPads to help educate students with disabilities or other special needs.

• Mark Buesing and Mike Cook, who want to use an iPad app and desktop computer software to prepare digital lessons and classroom presentations.

• Matt Thompson, Lauren Rust and Andrea Lara, who want to use iPads in social studies classrooms.

• Craig Schmidt, Anne Malecki, Mary Kate Polzin and Dyan Naslund, who will invite celebrity authors to speak to students about writing as part of a program called "Writers' Week 2012."

• Sherri Rukes, a chemistry teacher who received grants for three projects. One will use iPad apps and databases to help teach students; a second will teach students about how plastics from renewable sources, called bioplastics, are created and used; a third will help teach students how to make glass.

At Vernon Hills High School, teacher Ellen Macias will purchase a classroom set of Flip digital video cameras that will enable teachers to assign video-related projects.

One proposal benefits students at both schools.

Ting Ting Zhao, Nancy Tassler and Radhika Joshi will use iPads to help students develop reading, writing, listening and speaking skills in Chinese language classes.

"It is a tremendous feeling to be recognized as professionals who seek to engage students by giving them access to the latest innovations," Joshi, a language lab coordinator at Vernon Hills High, said in an email.

In its four years, the foundation has awarded nearly $51,000 to teachers at the two schools.

Libertyville High's Rukes is a regular recipient of foundation funding. Including the latest awards, Rukes has received 11 grants from the program.

Previous grants funded lessons about nanotechnology, solar cells, biofuels, the science of cooking and other subjects.

"I'm always trying to figure out ways to make (chemistry) more interesting," Rukes said.

It's no accident the projects on the latest grant list are tech-heavy.

"What these projects allow us to do is take how we teach our children to the next level with updated science and technology," Luce said.

The projects also will help educators learn how technology can enhance the classroom experience, he said.

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