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Bastrop ISD Partners with UT for $20,000 Grant

Bastrop ISD Partners with University of Texas for $20,000 Grant

(Bastrop) – Bastrop ISD was selected as the beneficiary of a coveted $20,000 LRNG Innovators Challenge grant written by Katie McKay, Co-Director of Heart of Texas Writing Project at the University of Texas. The grant, called Choice and Voice: Agency and Audience in a Resilient Rural Texas Community, will involve 10 BISD elementary teachers in an intensive, 15-month long program, along with McKay and Trey Job, City of Bastrop Parks and Recreation Director.

This year’s grant challenge asked educators to imagine engaging ways to help students explore their interests and ignite a passion that could lead to college, a career, or a positive impact on their community. The Choice and Voice project will allow students the opportunity to collaborate with the Bastrop Chamber of Commerce and the Bastrop Public Library to publish their writing for both local and global audiences. Foundational to the project is demonstrating through writing that Bastrop public schools are at the heart of their community and that Bastrop community stories, passions, and convictions are at the heart of their public schools.

“For the last year, we have partnered with BISD’s K-12 literacy teachers for professional development and coaching in the implementation of student-centered, high-quality writing instruction,” said McKay. “Our grant project will supplement and support that ongoing partnership by building leadership capacity across all six elementary schools. I am thrilled to receive this grant and continue our work together with Bastrop ISD!”

In addition to McKay and Job, grant participants include Patsy Vasquez (bilingual 2nd grade) and Cheryl Pinkston (4th grade) from Bluebonnet Elementary; Guadalupe Chavez (bilingual Kindergarten) and Emilie Neal (1st grade) from Cedar Creek Elementary; Nicole Craig (2nd grade) from Emile Elementary; Julia Zepeda (bilingual 1st grade) and Meggie Smiley (3rd grade) from Lost Pines Elementary; Kimberly Russell (2nd grade) from Mina Elementary; and Melissa Schlabach (2nd grade) and Brenda Cotto-Escalera (bilingual 4th grade) from Red Rock Elementary.

“Our work with Heart of Texas this year has been great, and I’m just excited to see how much further I can take this with my kids,” said Russell. “Because of what we’ve learned, it’s nothing for me to get a two-page, single line story from a second grader. They just enjoy writing so much more using the strategies we’ve implemented, such as the Lego storyboards and thinking maps.”

The Heart of Texas Writing Project is based at the University of Texas at Austin and is an affiliate of the National Writing Project. The organization provides inservice professional development to schools and districts, hosts workshops for teachers including an invitational summer institute, and generally supports educators in the area of reading, writing, and 21st Century literacy education.

“This grant is highly competitive, and Bastrop is one of only 10 districts in the U.S. to participate and the only one in Texas,” said Penné Liefer, Chief Academic Officer of Elementary Schools for Bastrop ISD. “We thank Katie McKay for selecting Bastrop ISD. We are honored to join a select list of other LRNG Innovators and look forward to how this project will impact our students over the next 15 months and beyond.”