EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
BURNET — Shady Grove Elementary School physical education teacher Sindra Salinas sees it every year: kids who haven’t developed the fine and gross motor skills they need to fully participate in gym class.
A sensory gym would be a solution, but the funding wasn’t there.
Not until her daughter, Drew Salinas, a senior at Texas A&M University and a Burnet High School graduate, helped her write a proposal for a Patsy’s Legacy Project Grant through the Alpha Chi chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma. The organization awarded a grant to Salinas earlier this fall. It was one of 20 the female educators organization awarded in memory of Patsy McDonald, a longtime and innovative Marble Falls High School teacher. She died of cancer in September 2012 at the age of 64.
It will probably be another few weeks before Salinas can complete the new sensory gym in a section of the school’s regular gym, but she’s already excited about how it can help her students at Shady Grove, which teaches pre-kindergarten through second grade in the Burnet Consolidated Independent School District.
“We have at least five to ten students from each grade level who will use it,” Salinas said, though it will be available to all students.
Salinas plans to fill the sensory gym with a ball pit, a balance beam, a rocking chair, and other equipment to help students develop their motor skills.
She’s not the only educator benefiting from the grants.
Like her teaching colleagues at public school, Tracy Knight, director of St. Peter’s Lutheran School in Marble Falls, watches every penny spent.
She used a Patsy’s Legacy Project Grant to finish outfitting her classes with alternative seating, including Wobble Kore Chairs.
While “alternative seating” might sound punitive, Knight said it’s important in developing small children’s core muscles.
“A lot of kids, they’re not playing outside as much or just playing, so they’re not developing that core strength,” she explained.
Core strength helps kids to not only sit up in a chair, it also gives them the ability to participate in many other activities. The Wobble Kore Chairs, along with a doughnut seat, also benefit “fidgety” kids.
Which, Knight pointed out, is all children.
“The chairs provide for some movement when the kids are typically supposed to be sitting in their chairs and being still,” she said. “It really helps them to do seat work time without having to not be 3, because they are 3.”
She added several Wobble Kore Chairs last year, also with help from the grant, and noted an improvement in the students’ core strength and behavior.
“Yes, they can sit for longer periods, but it’s more important than just sitting,” Knight said. “I feel the stronger that their core is and the better their balance, it just helps them in so many other things and their health.
“When the kids have been sitting in (a Kore chair) and they don’t want to anymore and want to sit in a regular chair because they’re tired, that tells me a lot,” she added. “It tells me the chairs are working.”
The Alpha Chi chapter established the Patsy’s Legacy Project Grants in May 2015 to honor McDonald. She wasn’t just a teacher with 28 years in the classroom. As a mathematics and physics instructor, McDonald always looked for ways to challenge her students with innovative education. After retiring from the Marble Falls Independent School District, McDonald helped develop and implement the University of Texas Quest Program, an online learning platform used by UT as well as 48 colleges and universities and more than 900 high schools nationwide.
Alpha Chi chapter members believe Patsy’s Legacy Project Grants honor McDonald’s commitment to education and continue her legacy.
Salinas believes the grant-funded sensory gym is going to be a big help for Shady Grove Elementary students. All those things it helps develop — motor skills, balance, communication skills — contribute to a student’s overall development.
“The grant makes it possible,” she added.
2017 Patsy’s Legacy Grant recipients
- Cheryl Collie of Burnet Middle School for classroom marine ecosystem
- Katherine Cox of Bertram Elementary School for Little Brother/Little Sister Book Buddies
- Dianne Miller of Burnet Middle School for Out and About Club
- Sindra Salinas of Shady Grove Elementary School for sensory gym
- Sherry Weisinger of Burnet High School for content mastery class project center
- Kayla Harned of Packsaddle Elementary School for fifth-grade chapter books
- Miranda Hill of Packsaddle Elementary School for alternative seating
- Allison Parker of Packsaddle Elementary School for fifth-grade science
- Elizabeth Redwine of Llano Elementary School for Our History, Our Legacy
- Second-Grade Team of Packsaddle Elementary School for headphones and motion bubbler
- Alice Smith of Llano Christian Academy for teacher staff development
- Amy Cozby of Faith Academy of Marble Falls for equipping physics lab with electricity
- Michelle Jett of Marble Falls Middle School for styluses for design on iPads in multimedia productions
- Tracy Knight of St. Peter’s Lutheran School for alternative seating (Wobble Kore Chairs)
- Kathy Payson of Marble Falls Elementary School for Let’s Read Together nooks for Reading Buddies
- Kathy Payson and Josanne France of Marble Falls Elementary School for summer reading Growing Club
- Deborah Ruebush of Marble Falls Elementary School for third-grade flexible seating
- Susan Schultz and Sarah Forren of Highland Lakes Elementary School for sensory garden
- Cassie Sultemeier of Marble Falls Middle School for active and flexible seating to boost literacy and student engagement
- Roberta Werner of Marble Falls Middle School for ELLS of Today in MFMS
Applications for next year’s grants can be found under “forms” at alphachitxdkg.weebly.com. The deadline is Aug. 31, 2018.