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Updated: Nov 22, 2023

BEAUFORT CO., S.C. – The Foundation for Educational Excellence awarded 12 Innovative Teacher Grants and 7 School Resource Grants this week to teachers across Beaufort County from 13 different schools. These grants totaling over $25,000 were awarded to teachers and schools for innovative learning opportunities and projects that go beyond the regular school district budget.

“The Foundation is honored to help provide these individual learning experiences to students across the district,” stated Michel Claudio, Innovative Grants Chair and Foundation Board Member. “It is our hope that these funds greatly impact the educational journey of each student involved in these innovative projects and we can’t wait to see the results!”

Projects funded by the Foundation this year range from purchasing sewing machines for elementary school students to providing equipment for Gaga ball and helping a school spruce up their outdoor spaces for students to enjoy.

Art teacher, Aimee Wieler’s project “Sewing Machine Basics, Planting Stitches for a Live-Long Positive Addiction” will help students at St. Helena Elementary School to learn a very valuable life skill. The funds will be used to purchase five beginner sewing machines for use by students in third through fifth grades during sewing club meetings. Currently during the meetings of the sewing club at St. Helena Elementary School, the students have been focusing on various hand-sewing techniques. However, with the purchase of the five beginner sewing machines, the club leader will be able to provide the instruction and tools for students to develop meaningful skills resulting in a life-long interest, hobby, and/or career-ready skills.

At Hilton Head Island School for Creative Arts, P.E. Teacher, Jennifer Friend-Kerr and Matthew Bauman were awarded a grant for their project “Going Gaga for Fitness.” The purpose of the project is to give students the opportunity to collaborate with confidence using teamwork, physical fitness, math, science, social studies, and research skills when planning and participating in the game, Gaga ball. The funds provided by the Foundation

will be used to purchase equipment for the game as well as providing a literacy component to the project with the book, “How to Play Gaga Ball” by Alexander Kazachk. The students will begin the project by researching the game’s origin and learning the rules. They will integrate the concepts of geometric shapes, as they create a model using recycled materials, Keva Planks, or Legos. They will also research the history of the game and apply scientific concepts involved in playing the game including force, friction, push vs. pull, and energy when strategizing to win or eliminate players. Students will make videos teaching other students how to play the game and helpful strategies to be an effective competitor. Finally, students will participate in the game applying the rules and concepts learned. The best part is that the equipment purchased will be utilized at the school for many years to come!

Elandee Thompson, the principal at Beaufort Middle School, has a goal of renewing the schoolyard garden, restoring the school and courtyard, and developing an “edible campus” landscape. And her project “Courtyard/School Garden/Campus-scape Renovation” funded by a grant from the Foundation will allow BMS to do just that! In the gardens, the students will plant vegetables, plants, and herbs that are of significance to

South Carolina. These plantings will be used to support instruction in various subjects, and will also be used as a teaching garden in collaboration with Intensive Support classrooms. Engaging students in the planning, design and implementation of a schoolyard landscape and campus renewal enhances student learning by providing real-world opportunities for students to apply their learning in new and different ways. This project would allow students to be innovative and collaborative, while also cultivating a sense of stewardship, leadership and citizenship within their community.

“It’s exciting to be a part of helping the teachers and students of our district by awarding these grants,” said Lisa Carroll, the Foundation’s Board Chair. “Due to the overwhelming generosity of the Foundation’s supporters, thousands of students throughout the county will be impacted through the implementation of these creative and innovative projects.”

The grant recipients for Fall 2023 are listed below:





Going Gaga for Fitness

Jennifer Friend-Kerr and Matthew Bauman

Hilton Head Island School for Creative Arts

Creative Keys: Playing & Composing Music

Melinda Bray and Heather Bell

Hilton Head Island School for Creative Arts

Let’s Build A Wall!

Amanda Freeman

Mossy Oaks Elementary School

Facts are Fun! Why We Love Non-fiction

Lynda Jernigan

Mossy Oaks Elementary School

Coding with Microbits

Amy Trask

Beaufort Middle School

Makerspace in Computer Science

Lisabeth Webber

Okatie Elementary School

Social-Emotional Interventions

Brianna Burgess

Beaufort Elementary School

Transforming Family & ConsumerSciences for Today’s Demands

Christina Herrington

Bluffton High School

Enhancing Media Design

Sarah Evenden

Robert Smalls Leadership Academy

Origami in Makerspace

Rhonda Doherty

Robert Smalls Leadership Academy

Illustrate Your Life

Kimberlee Smith

Hilton Head Island High School

Sewing Machine Basics, Planting Stitches for a Lifelong Positive Addiction

Aimee Wieler

St. Helena Elementary School


Gullah Culture Preservation

Treva Kent and Debbie Smith

Beaufort Elementary School

If They Build It, They Will Learn

Amy Fleury

Okatie Elementary School

Energy Transfer Baked

Heidi McAllister

Bluffton Middle School

International Festival Performance Equipment

Melanie Nolan

M.C. Riley Elementary School

Courtyard/School Garden Campus-scape Renovation

Elandee Thompson

Beaufort Middle School

Cultivating the Seeds of Success

Joseph Williams

May River High School

“VEX123” Robotics and Coding for Early Elementary

Dara Kappel

Bluffton Elementary School


The Foundation for Educational Excellence raises funds to support the mission and goals of the Beaufort County School District by furthering student instructional activities and projects through Innovative Teacher Grants, Innovative School Resource Grants and Student Enrichment Grants. Established in 2007, the Foundation awarded its first grants in 2009 and has awarded over $350,000 in grants to the teachers and students in the public school system since its inception benefitting thousands of students across the county each year.

Grants are applied for and awarded once a year. Projects are chosen on their merit by board members of the Foundation. Innovative Teacher Grants are for learning experiences above and beyond the normal classroom like science projects, arts performances, and robotic materials and provide unique learning opportunities that

are not funded through traditional budgets. Innovative School Resource Grants are for innovative instructional school-wide projects. These grants help spark the imaginations of students to create a life-long interest in learning. Often these grant awards provide multi-year learning impact.

The Foundation is supported by individual donations and these local charities: The Bargain Box of Hilton Head, Friends of Callawassie Island, Italian-American Club of Hilton Head, Moss Creek Charitable Fund and Women In Philanthropy of Hilton Head. We are grateful for their ongoing support of our work.

The Foundation is a fund of Community Foundation of the Lowcountry and a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Donations are tax deductible as allowed by law and can be made by clicking on the button below.

For information, contact the Foundation at, 843-304-1922, or


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