For Immediate Release
Ted Oppenheimer, Oppenheimer Family Foundation
Laura McElroy, MK Communications
Teachers win support for innovative, experience-based learning projects from Oppenheimer Family Foundation
Teacher Incentive Grants to impact more than 20,000 CPS students
(CHICAGO)—A national park ranger by summer and a barrier-breaking art teacher by trade, Mark Nelson is the winner of this year’s OPPY Award, presented Thursday by the Oppenheimer Family Foundation.
Long an innovator in art education, Nelson has invigorated several Chicago Public Schools from the inside out with student-created visual art— from mosaic murals celebrating science, music and world religions, to a huge, brightly colored dragon hanging from the classroom ceiling, to outdoor limestone sculptures, Nelson has succeeded in making art accessible and meaningful to children. He is also well known by colleagues for his astounding work connecting students with disabilities to art.
Now a member of the art faculty at Schurz High School, Nelson previously taught K-8 art education at Stone Academy. Inspired by his summer work as a U.S. National Park Ranger, Nelson has produced 21 short documentary films about the parks, which he shares with his students as part of the Teacher-Ranger-Teacher program.
On Thursday, Nelson was joined by the Foundation, as well as Luis Soria, CPS Chief, Midway Network, as they recognized Nelson and hundreds of other outstanding teachers at the Teacher Incentive Grants (TIG) awards ceremony at Prosser High. More than $160,000 in grants went to 272 primary and secondary Chicago Public Schools teachers. The grants, which will help fund 139 interdisciplinary projects across the district, are expected to directly engage more than 20,000 CPS students.
The grants support a wide variety of hands-on projects, including one winning proposal in which Lane Tech students will design, construct and perform with their own Ghanaian-style drums. With their grant, Reinberg Elementary School students will write and publish a book from which they will create videos and e-books to share with their classmates. In the TIG-supported Easy Strings Guitar Club at the Walt Disney Magnet School, students will learn guitar skills, music theory and how to care for instruments.
For 37 years, the Foundation has celebrated teaching through hands-on experiences with the grants and the OPPY Award. This year, the Foundation received almost 400 applications, the largest number of grant requests since 2006. Ted Oppenheimer, president of the Foundation, attributes the jump in part to the new longer school day and a renewed city-wide emphasis on arts education.
“We are pleased to see such increased interest in this type of interdisciplinary, hands-on projects,” said Ted Oppenheimer, president of the Foundation. “With grants of up to $2,000, we’re helping these exceptional teachers develop exciting project-based lessons for their students in the arts, science, math and language arts, to name a few.”
The Oppenheimer Family Foundation is a 501(c)3 organization founded in 1933 to support the work of Chicago non-profit groups in the areas of education, the environment and crime prevention. This is the 37th year for the Oppenheimer Foundation’s Teacher Incentive Grants program. To date, the organization has awarded more than $3.4 million in grants. For a full list of this year’s winners please visit: www.offtig.org/winners.