PHARR – Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA) educators were surprised by the PSJA Education Foundation recently, during their annual Mini Grants prize patrol. The organization distributed $30,000 toward engaging classroom projects at 20 district campuses during surprise visits on Jan. 18 and 25.

Founded in 2013, the PSJA Education Foundation is an independent non-profit organization operating exclusively for the benefit of the faculty and students in PSJA ISD. With the help and support of community sponsors and the generous monthly contributions of PSJA ISD employees, the Foundation awards competitive teacher grants to fund creative classroom projects, student scholarships and library grants to support literacy district wide.

Over 105 applications received this school year and 36 grants ranging from $300 to $1,000 were awarded.

“We are very happy to help our teachers,” said Joel A. Gonzalez, President of the PSJA Education Foundation. “We don’t want teachers to be spending their own money for creative classroom projects.”

For Reynaldo Perez, a government teacher at PSJA Early College High School in San Juan, his grant will fund equipment that students can use to film a historic documentary featuring soldiers and military veterans from World War II to the Iraq War.

“We will be buying cameras and equipment for students,” said Perez of the $558.96 grant he received. “As college students they will get to learn about history, research and interview people for the project.”

According to Gonzalez, members are looking forward to seeing students learn from all the creative projects proposed.

“One project that really stuck out to me was the Ozobot STEM Program,” said Gonzalez of one of four $1,000 Mini Grants awarded to fund this project at four elementary schools. “Technology and coding are the way of the future. I’m really curious to see how teachers use the program as a learning tool inside the classroom.”

The Ozobot education program offers teachers an innovative way to teach subjects like programming, math and science in their classrooms. Through the program, students are able to learn and become inspired to be part of the next generation of computer scientists, engineering and inventors.

Having been surprised in their class by the Foundation members, teachers were excited and grateful for the grants.

“Thank you so much to the PSJA Education Foundation for making so many things possible like student scholarships and projects for teachers,” Perez said.