Teacher Mini-Grant Recipients

Kelly Cleveland

I received a mini-grant from Quota Club GR and was able to purchase books for my littlest learners who are enrolled in the Kent ISD Oral Deaf Program. Why books? Why did I apply for a grant to purchase books that could be given to our newly enrolled families?


Research has shown that shared reading with younger children can predict later receptive language development and reading comprehension. It affects a child’s internal motivation to read in the elementary years. Studies have also shown that parent-child reading interactions prove that the language used by parents during these interactions has a greater variety of vocabulary as well as higher syntactic language structures commonly used in everyday conversations. ( Ece Demir-Lira Ö, Applebaum LR, Goldin-Meadow S, Levine SC. Parents’ early book reading to children: relation to children’s later language and literacy outcomes controlling for other parent language input. Dev Sci. (2019) 22:e12764. 10.1111/desc.12764).


The two books that were selected to be purchased with the grant money are significant to helping children who have hearing loss develop various speech sounds. These books were written by Stephanie Cohen, M.A., CCC-SLP, CLC whose mission “is to empower each parent to be their child’s best teacher by supporting emotional connection and early language learning.”.


The sounds used in each book represent the Learning to Listen Sounds that we often use as beginning sounds for little learners. These are the sounds that are often easily detected by young children with hearing loss when they are wearing their hearing aids or cochlear implants. The Learning to Listen Sounds are fun sounds to hear and make and they help develop listening, speech, and language milestones.


My First Learn-to-Talk Book and My First Learn-to-Talk Book Things That Go, will be used by parents and caregivers to help facilitate the bond between parent/caregiver and child, and will be some of the first sounds my little learners use. With grant money received from Quota Club Grand Rapids, I know that I am able to give each new family quality books to begin their listening and spoken language journey all while utilizing shared reading to develop social interactions that will lead to bonding and strong relationships between parent/caregiver and child.


Thank you Quota Club Grand Rapids for helping me foster the love of shared reading to the families of our littlest learners enrolled in the Kent ISD Oral Deaf Program.

Teresa Suwyn

Thank you so much for the $250 grant for video equipment! I appreciate the opportunity to record more videos for parents to learn sign language along with their students and for me to get more language samples from students to document their growth. With your grant money, I was able to purchase the camera and stand. I was also able to get a backdrop to reduce background distractions when recording.


Since purchasing these items, I was able to make 2 videos for families to learn vocabulary. I was also able to record interviews of students to use as a language sample. I am excited to have the equipment ready to start the 2023-2024 school year so that I can have a beginning, middle, and end-of-the-year sample.


Many types of assessments are based on hearing standards and phonics. I am excited to use this equipment in the future to try making my own assessments for students. I would like to combine my knowledge of Google Forms, Sites and Book Creator to make more assessments and resources for students and parents.


Thank you for your investment in my classroom, parents and students. I am grateful for the opportunity to help others in their journey of learning sign language and assessing the amount that students know.


Heather Braspenninx

I would like to graciously thank you for the Mini-Grant I received in March 2023. As a Teacher Consultant for the Kent ISD Oral Deaf Program, I work with students ranging from 3 years of age through grade 12+. In order to meet all of their individual needs and goals, I often need to find resources that can be used with multiple students. This is where books often come into play for me! By choosing the books based on language, I can meet the goals of multiple students. Building a “classroom” library is costly, and this grant has allowed me to add books focusing on inference, negation, and verbs.


Thank you again for your support as I continue to educate and support students in the Kent ISD Oral Deaf Program!


Cheryl Marks

On May 4th, 2023 Deaf/hard of hearing students from Mattawan attended our annual woodworking field trip. We have, over the past 3 years, built a relationship with our local Deaf mentor, Dom Bearwood of Bearwood Reclaimed. Dom is a local carpenter and has a passion for sharing his skills and giving back to the Deaf community. Dom has provided opportunities for our students to learn about woodworking, using the tools of the carpentry trade, owning a business, and navigating the hearing world as a Deaf adult. This event is something that students look forward to every spring and for the last two years, we’ve gotten the opportunity to travel to Dell Darnell’s workshop The Dapper Hammer.


We began the day talking about our theme of “May the 4th be with you” to celebrate Star Wars Day. Students shared ideas about what type of wooden sculpture they wanted to build. They were able to pick out their own materials, measure, mark, and cut the wooden pieces to fit their design. It was great to see the students making creative decisions and seeing the results take form right before their eyes. There were conversations about construction techniques, wood types, tool use, and paint choices. It was amazing to see the ease at which students were able to communicate using their native language of American Sign Language with all the participants. By the end of the day, students had created works of art they were eager to show off to the group and later to their parents.


This event is a great opportunity for students who wouldn’t normally have access to these experiences within their community. Having a role model is key to developing self-determination skills. The skill of relatedness allows students the opportunity to belong to a group of people that share the same life experiences. My job over the years has been to seek out opportunities and connect with neighboring programs and community members. By developing connections and gaining financial support within the community, I can set my own goals for learning.


This grant provided by the Quota Club of Grand Rapids has allowed me to continue to make connections within our region of southwest Michigan and build a network to foster language and learning. I appreciate the generosity of the members in providing this opportunity for Deaf/hard of hearing learners to expand their potential.